Announcement of the Birth of John
OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
From the earliest recorded writings of Sacred Scriptures, we are told that we are made in the image and likeness of our God. This unique relationship of God with creature and creature with God – stands as an important element in scripture’s message.
Soon we will remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior. It is a mystery that boosts our confidence in who we are and in what we are destined to become. We are destined to join God in the glory of the heavenly court. We ask ourselves today the question: “Does Christ’s Incarnation cause a stirring in our hearts and in our minds when we try to contemplate this incredible mystery? How does it touch our lives? (Fr. Emeterio dela Paz, SVD Bible Diary 2002)
There is a saying: ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This seems to be Zechariah’s thought in today’s gospel after the angel Gabriel gave him great sounding news: Elizabeth and he are about to have a child. And because he doubted the angel’s word, Zechariah was struck dumb. What the priest failed to see was that with God everything is possible. Let’s considering the following points:
First, God had a plan for man’s salvation. It may have taken centuries to unfold, but the plan was going to be realized. And Zechariah and Elizabeth had a role to play: to be the parents of the precursor of the Savior. That both of them were old was irrelevant in this case, for nothing is impossible with God. What about us? Are we ready to be used by God for His purposes? Are we eager to do God’s will in our lives even though it is difficult? Saint Francis prayed: “Lord, make me in instrument of your peace?” what does God want us to do for Him?
Second, God chooses whom He wills. He chose Zechariah, Elizabeth and others for His purposes. And He chose each and everyone of us for a special task or calling, this is why He created us. Are we going to miss and lose the mission God has in mind for us? Is it the priesthood or religious life, or single blessedness or married life? Yes, we are unworthy but our task is to be like Mary, a servant of God’s will.
Third, God carries out His plan. It may have taken a long time for the Savior to appear but He did. In life we have our own time and we have God’s time. Usually when we want something, we want it our own way, in our own time. This is wrong, for we should allow God to work out His plan in our lives in His own time. What we need to do is to be ready at all times to do God’s will when, where and how He will it. This is the way of God’s servant.
God has a purpose for out lives. Are we fulfilling it? May the Holy Spirit guide us that we may accomplish that for which God created us with love. (Fr. Lino Nicasio, SVD Bible Diary 2005)
When was the last time you let God do the all the talking and doing?
My mom was so displeased after she learned for the first time from our neighbors and family friends that I was contemplating to enter the priesthood. After I got her reprimand for being so insensitive I thought I blew up all my chances, lost my credibility and gust to sit down with both my parents over the matter. To add to my anxiety, I was worried they’d use the full college scholarship which I earlier earned from a government agency as an excuse to dissuade me from pursuing my plan. As a strategy, I sought the help of our parish priest then (Fr. Faustino Bisol), who in turn also sought the parish priest of the neighboring town (then Fr. Arturo Bastes, SVD now the bishop of Sorsogon) to speak with my parents and implore them on my behalf. As planned, they did all the talking and as the saying goes, everything is history.
When the angel Gabriel broke the news to Zechariah about her wife bearing a child despite her age, he found it too unbelievable. Overwhelmed, he was unsure of the implications of this affair. Scared and feeling inadequate he didn’t know how he was going to break this news to his kinsfolk without being labeled as mentally deranged.
God, however, spared Zechariah from undue burden. God intervened and did all the talking for him. Zechariah was rendered, “speechless and unable to talk until the days these things take place” (v. 9). And when all these things had taken place God emancipated the couple from the religious- cultural shame that their being childless kept them from many long years.
Didn’t Peter remind us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him because he cares for you,” (1Pt 5:7)? God truly cares for us! He did care for Zechariah and Elizabeth blessing them with a child for remaining “righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly,” (Luke 1:3). Indeed, if we learn to leave all our troubles and worries to God’s care, He’ll do all the talking and doing for us. (Fr. Nielo Cantilado, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
A five-year old boy was dying in Calcutta. The medicine that could save him was available only in Europe, so the frail and old father of the boy approached Mother Teresa and desperately begged for help. The saintly founder of the Missionary of Charity painfully confronted the teary-eyed man: “I’m sorry…I have no such medicine. But trust God. The Good Lord will provide.”
Feeling hopeless, the man was about to leave the center when a mail package from abroad was delivered. The sisters then excitedly opened the box full of medicine… from Europe! The very medicine the man needed for his dying son was on top of the package. Mother Teresa saw the medicine and called the man who was already at the doorstep. She said: “God is truly good. He must have touched the hearts of our donors to send these medicines before you needed them. They arrived in time while you’re still here. God always prepares the way for our needs.”
God prepared the way for our needs and for our salvation. He sent His angel to joyfully announce to Zechariah that his wife, old and barren, would bear a son. Zechariah’s prayers for Elizabeth were heard and their son, John, would soon prepare the coming of Jesus. Likewise, God sent His angel to the wife of Manoah to announce that she though barren would bear a son. She would name him Samson, and like John, was to be consecrated to God. He would deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines.
John and Samson indeed are comparable to the medicine given to the old man for his dying son. In all these, God provided for the sources of deliverance. In the same manner, God always prepares the way for the resolution of our needs, troubles and problems. God is already touching the hearts of persons as He listens to our prayers. He continues to touch people to share what they have to those who have none. He may be touching you right now because somebody is praying and begging God for help. Through you, God continues to prepare the way of Jesus to be born into the hearts of other people. This will surely make your Christmas, and others too, more meaningful and relevant.
In this situation, we can sincerely proclaim before God: “My mouth shall be filled with your praise and I will sing your glory!” (Fr. Arlo Yap, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
SAMSON AND JOHN. The readings for today speak about two sons. The first reading’s son is named Samson. The son in the second reading is named John. Let us compare and let us contrast.
The similarities: both Samson and John were born from mothers considered sterile. These women were not expected to give birth and yet each became pregnant and gave birth to Samson and to John respectively. Both Samson and John did not know how a barbershop looks. No shaver ever touched the head of Samson. In the case of John he also maintained a wild-look appearance. Both of them were considered filled with the Holy Spirit even while in the womb of their mothers.
In contrast: Samson was muscular, John was ascetic. A contrast, Samson was a combatant. He led his people against the Philistines. In the case of John, he was not a warrior. He was a desert figure and he fasted many days and many nights.. his attitude towards life was always prayer. John and Samson were both killed in a bloody manner. Samson, as you know, died violently with the crushing of the temple and John died violently because he was beheaded.
What do Samson and John teach us? Did their mothers expect them to be born? No. Did they want a life like that? They definitely did not ask for it. Did they want to die like that? They did not want to die like that. Did they want to live like that, longhaired and looking wild? They did not like to live that way. They would have wanted to live as ordinary mortals. One thing that surfaces in both Samson and John and what is it? Openness to God. Expect surprises from God because the one who will give directions is God. God tells us what to do.
Unfortunately, when we pray, we tell God what to do. We tell God what to do with the war. We tell God what to do with the sickness. We tell God what to do with the problems of the world. But the question is, do we ever ask God: “Lord, what do you want us to do?” Let us remember that He is God and we are not. Unfortunately, we are a people who want to play the games and we call ourselves or we act and talk and think like God. Samson and John teach only one word: Openness. Be open. Expect surprises from God. Even if we don’t like what these surprises ask us to do, we have to do them, nonetheless because God tells us to do them. They did not like what they had to do. They were hesitant. They were reluctant but they obeyed because God willed it.
We are going to have a better Christmas if we always remember Jesus is God and I am not. So ask Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” and stop telling Jesus what to do. He is in control; we are creatures. Be open to the God of surprises.
In big families, say with ten or more children, it is easy to be forgotten. A child could ask something from a parent, only to find out that due to his/her parent’s other tasks, the request was forgotten. Not so with God. In today’s gospel, we read how God fulfills His promise of salvation by revealing to Zechariah the birth of a son, the forerunner of the Redeemer. Let us reflect and learn from Zechariah’s experience. Zechariah lived a life faithful to the Lord. He and his wife Elizabeth “were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” Just as a parent would not refuse an obedient child’s reasonable request, so God will not refuse the prayer of a righteous person, one who seeks to please the Lord at all times.
Zechariah persevered in prayer. The angel Gabriel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.” Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless but Zechariah kept on praying and praying and praying and praying….and the result? The angel declared, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son and you shall name him John.” God grants our reasonable requests but in his time, not ours.
Zechariah learned the value of trusting the Lord completely. Unfortunately for Zechariah, he thought the angel’s message was “too good to be true.” And he paid for it by being struck and dumb, which of course was resolved happily a little later in the story. The lesson for us is clear: trust the Lord completely.
In the Advent/Christmas season, we have quite a number of prayer-requests to the Lord. It would be a good idea to remember the lessons from Zechariah: live a life pleasing to God, persevere in prayer and trust the Lord completely. (Fr. Nilo Nicasio, SVD Bible Diary 2009)
December 19, 2012
St. Augustine Moi
Late Advent Weekdays:
Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a
Announcement of the Birth of John
5In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah… 8Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God… 11the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. … 19And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. …
21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute. 23Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. 24After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, 25“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”
He was unable to speak. Zechariah and Elizabeth are blessed by God. In their old age they are gifted with a child. God takes away the disgrace associated with barrenness.
The Gospel pinpoints the value of silence. God speaks in silence. Zechariah is rendered speechless after questioning the possibility of Elizabeth begetting a child in her old age. Elizabeth goes into seclusion for five months, relishing God’s marvel for her and Zechariah.
That we may not get lost in shopping sprees and “midnight madness” sales for Christmas, let us find time to speak to God in the silence of our hearts. That we may not be too preoccupied with what to eat, where to celebrate, and what to wear, let us pause in silence to listen to God’s voice. When we must take a serious decision, act or speak on a delicate issue, let us seek God’s counsel in prayerful silence.
I will trust God. I will not doubt or question his ways.
4th Day, 19th December Year A: Theme: With HOPE, we can face our darkness…
Readings: Judges 13: 2-7. 24-25; Luke 1: 5-25
The short reflection on the 4th day of Misa de Gallo is taken from the Gospel reading: “The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.” (Luke 1: 13).
The Old Zechariah and his barren WIFE, Elizabeth, remind us of waiting in hope… They believed and held on in hope. Their prayers were heard and a son was given them. John reminds of Samuel, Samson and Isaac… they are all “sons of promise”.
Out of ‘barrenness’ often comes the greatest creativity. We now know this is the very nature of God’s whole creation like the very origin of the universe. And the only thing that can endure deep doubt or anxiety is deep faith. You will not allow yourselves to enter into complexity, ambiguity, mystery, or the partial darkness that everything is, without a very strong faith. You will close down.
I have found that people, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, who can tolerate ambiguity and hold darkness are those who rise to great faith. Faith gets purified every time you go through the cycle of doubt and failure. On this wheel just about everything is purified: our self-image, our God-image, our worldview.
Bapa Jun Mercado, OMI facebook.com/jun.mercado
An angel speaks to Zechariah: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son.” Zechariah and Elizabeth are the central figures in today’s readings. A descendant of Aaron, Zechariah was a priest by heredity.
In Zechariah’s time, priests were so plentiful that they drew lots to see who would serve in the Temple.
Zechariah’s life was marred by tragedy. His wife was childless (and sterile). Sterility was grounds for divorce in Jesus’ time, but Zechariah and his wife remained together.
God blessed the old couple in a remarkable way. (God heard their prayers.) They conceived a son, who became John the Baptist, whom Jesus called history’s greatest man (Luke 7:28).
How do we handle tragedies in our lives? What role does prayer play in them?
“The chief pain of most trials is not so much the actual suffering itself, as our own spirit of resistance to it.” Joan Nicholas Grou- (Mark Link SJ, Illustrated daily Homilies Seasons and Feasts, 1987:45).
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Luke 1: 5-15 “The Real Christmas Gift”
The Day’s End 12-19-13 (The True Christmas Gift) from The Day’s End on Vimeo.
A Homily adapted from a sermon by Robert Austell
Advent is meant to be a time in which we prepare both for Christmas and for Jesus’ return. I think for many of us, this can be one of the most hectic times of the year. Kids are in special programs at school and at church. There are Christmas parties of all kinds – with the office, neighbors, friends and family. There is shopping to be done, and many us will travel. All of these activities have their special place in the season, but today let’s look at the Gospel in a way that may challenge us to try something a little different this year.
Today’s Gospel speaks of the story of a miracle pregnancy – not Mary’s, but that of her cousin, Elizabeth. Zechariah and Elizabeth were also in a busy time of year. Zechariah was a priest, and as was the custom, rotated through various duties at the Temple. At this particular time, he was scheduled to offer the, “Incense Offering” inside of the Temple. This high honor typically only happened to a particular priest once or twice in a lifetime. It was the closest an ordinary priest would come to the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies. The people would have been at worship in the Temple courtyards while this offering was going on.
It was there that Zechariah had a vision of an angel, who came with news from the Lord. “Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to have a baby.” Like Sarah and Abraham before them, Zechariah and Elizabeth were past child-bearing age, and Elizabeth had been unable to conceive when they were younger. She was barren, an emotional and challenging thing in any place and time, but particularly so in a culture where children and family were so very important.
In fact, having many children was part of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants, and to be barren was especially difficult for a couple who were “heirs” of that promise. And like Abraham and Sarah before him, Zechariah fearfully recognized the angel for who he was, but found the message unrealistic. And this was no hazy promise of one day having a child. This was a full-on vision and promise with details including the baby’s name, calling, and future. He was to be called John, be raised under strict guidelines, and promised to be a prophet like Elijah. And Zechariah asked the question any of us probably would have asked, “How can this be?” (Or, we might add, “Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?”)
Now here is where a miraculous story gets even more interesting.
Because Zechariah asked how he would know this for certain, the angel (Gabriel) told him that he would be unable to speak until the baby was born. Gabriel attributes this action to Zechariah’s unbelief, but the muteness is not a punishment, but a SIGN that God was at work. Let’s take a moment and ponder the meaning and usefulness of that sign, and then a corresponding decision made by Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth. Zechariah asked for a sign. He said, “How will I know this for certain?” As if an angel appearing with a word from God wasn’t enough… and the answer he got was silence.
SO, was being struck with an inability to speak, “the sign?”
Or did being silent allow him the quiet and reflection to recognize God at work?
In the case of Zechariah, I think being made mute was itself the sign; but I think it also afforded him the opportunity to really ponder God’s word to him through the angel. It probably slowed him down and gave him a lot more opportunity to listen since that was all he could do. What about your life? Has God provided opportunity for you to really listen to him? Or maybe it’s not something God has caused, but nonetheless invites you to make use of… an illness, some time off between jobs, a broken down car. The point here isn’t so much the specific sign, as it is taking the time to listen to God. Zechariah needed to listen and give attention to God because God had spoken and God was acting, and those things are true for us as well.
God has spoken and is speaking all the time.
And God has acted and is acting in and around us all the time!
But Are We paying attention? (Pause)
There is a second example in the Gospel for us of someone paying attention to God. After Elizabeth became pregnant, she “kept herself in seclusion for five months.” Now, our minds might be quick to think that a pregnant woman in seclusion means shame or embarrassment, but look at Elizabeth’s reasoning. She is anything but shamed. The Gospel reads: “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when he looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” Her barrenness was shame to her; her pregnancy was the Lord’s blessing.
Whereas Zechariah’s voice was taken away from him without a choice, as a sign, and then allowed him to ponder the promise of the Lord, I believe that Elizabeth made a conscious choice to be still and wait on the Lord. She withdrew to receive the favor and blessing the Lord had promised to her. Certainly the pregnancy also served as a very real and tangible sign to her of the Lord’s promise. But, her solitude afforded her the opportunity to really ponder what the Lord was doing, and was going to do, through this miraculous birth.
Today’s Gospel can give us a special lesson as well, as we look forward to Christmas – the celebration of the arrival of Jesus into the world. Whether silence and solitude has been your active choice or not, we should make time this Christmas season to pay attention to God. We should Pace ourselves; prioritize; and if we have to, just say ‘no’ in order to have some moments of quiet reflection, listening for what God is saying and doing in our lives, and in the lives of those around us. As important as the once-in-a-lifetime offering in the Temple was, God was doing something even more important with Zechariah and Elizabeth. As important as Christmas parties, decorating, shopping, and travel are, don’t miss what God is also doing.
I can’t think of any more important thing each of us could do this Christmas season than to seriously make some space in our life for silence and solitude before the Lord. It may be in the quiet of Holy Communion in just a few moments. It may be taking the family on a drive to the mountains to get the tree, or taking some time to read the Christmas story to your kids. It may be in the car in the parking lot at the mall, taking 5 minutes to pray before jumping into the fray. It may even be stopping by the adoration room to just be in his presence. Zechariah and Elizabeth were privileged to bear and raise the last great prophet who announced the arrival of God into the world. Their preparation and contemplation of that blessing and honor came through paying attention to what God was saying and doing.
God is also inviting each one of us to participate in what He is doing.
Our paying attention to God this Christmas season not only prepares us for a real and meaningful experience of Christmas, but also for serving God in that special way that we were uniquely created for.
And for all of us who look for, and can see, God in the events and people who surround us,
We will truly find,
the Real… Christmas Gift…. indeed!
DIYOS NA KAPAMILYA AT KAPUSO NATIN! : Reflection for 4th Day of Christmas Novena – SIMBANG GABI – December 19, 2014 – YEAR OF THE POOR
Hanggang saan ba ang ating pagtitiwala sa Diyos? Lagi nating naririnig ang mga katagang “God is good all the time and all the time God is good!” Ngunit ito ba ay napatutunayan natin sa ating pagtitiwala sa Kanya? Minsan ay may isang sirkero na nagtangghal sa isang pampublikong lugar. Nagtali siya ng isang kable sa magkabilang gusali at nagsabi sa mga taong panoorin ang kanyang gagawin. Dala ang isang mahabang patpat ay tumulay siya sa kable na walang kahirap-hirap. Hangang-hanga ang mga nanonood at muling nagsalita ang sirkero. “Ngayon ako naman ay tutulay sa kable na nakasakay sa bisikleta. Naniniwala ba kayong magagawa ko ito?” “Oo, naniniwala kami! Alam naming mahusay ka at magagawa mo iyon!” At kinuha nga ng sirkero ang kanyang bisikleta at nagsimulang pumadyak at walang hirap na tinawid ang bisikleta sa kabilang gusali. Palakpakan ang mga nanonood ngunit muling nagsalita ang sirkero: “Wag muna kayong pumalakpak. May isa pa akong gagawin. Muli kung itatawid ang aking bisikleta sa kable na may angkas sa likod! Naniniwala ba kayong magagawa ko ito?” “Oo, naniniwala kami na magagawa mo yan sapagkat napakahusay mo!” sabi ng mga nanonood. “Salamat! Ngayon nangangailangan ako ng isang volunteer para umangkas sa aking bisikleta? Mayroon bang may gusto sa inyo?” Tumahimik ang lahat. at isa-isang umalis… Ang Pasko ay kuwento ng Diyos na nagkatawang tao upang makasama natin. Kung hihiramin ko ang slogan ng ABS-CBN, ang Diyos naging KAPAMILYA natin. Ngunit ang Diyos na nagkatawang-tao ay hindi lang naging bahagi ng sangkatauhan, Siya rin ay nakiisa sa atin, maliban sa kasalanan, at nagpakita ng malasakit at pagmamahal sa ating. Kung hihiramin ko ang slogan ng GMA7, ipinakita ng Diyos na Siya ay KAPUSO natin! Ngunit sa kaibla nito ay marami pa rin ang nag-aalinlangan sa Kanya. Katulad ng pag-aalinlangan ni Zacharias na nag-alinlangan na kayang gawin ng Diyos ang imposible na ang kanyang asawang si Isabel ay magbubuntis at manganganak. Bagamat may katwirang mag-alinlangan si Zacahrias sapagkat matanda na sila ng kanyang asawa, ay hindi niya napagtanto na ang kaharap niya ay ang anghel Gabriel na sugo ng kataas-taasang Diyos minsan ng nagpamalas ng Kanyang kapangyarihan at kadakilaan. May Zacharias din sa bawat isa sa atin. Sa kabila ng kabutihan na ipinapakita ng Diyos ay sinusuklian natin ng pag-aalinlangan. pagwawalang-bahala, pagkagalit, at kung minsan pa nga ay pagtatatwa ang Kanyang alok na pagmamahal. Kung minsan dala marahil ng maraming provlema at pagkabigo ay nalilimutan nating may Diyos na “mas malaki pa” sa ating mga suliranin at alalahanin sa buhay! Magtiwala tayo sa Kanya sapagkat may Diyos na nakiisa at nagmalasakit sa atin… may Diyos na naging KAPAMILYA AT KAPUSO natin! Ipinaskil ni kalakbay ng kabataan
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