So many gospel passages are epic stories that we know well, like today’s account of the angel’s appearance to Zechariah to tell him that he and Elizabeth, both well past child-bearing years, would have a son to be named John (the Baptist).
I’m encouraged by the fact that these two good people had waited all their lives to see the action of God, and now, as an elderly couple, it happens. It is never too late for God!
“In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah…and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name… Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord.
Zechariah and Elizabeth are off to a good start with their deep relationship with God. In fact I feel a bit intimidated by them since only those who don’t know me well would describe me as worthy in the sight of God and I can’t think of anyone who would think that I was a “scrupulous observer of all the commandments and observances of the Lord.”
But then I realised that the heart of my problem and the reason for my loss of perspective is that I have the same doubt that Zechariah had when the angel told him that he and his very elderly wife would have a son.
“Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this?”
That’s often my problem.
How can I be sure that living in relationship with Jesus Christ will enable me to live the life that I seek?
All the reports from history and the evidence in my own experience says YES. Life in relationship with Jesus Christ gives the most guaranteed certainty of a happy and fulfilling life. While we look for certainty in books and methods and programmes our only certainty is in relationship, first with God and then with those God gives us as companions on this journey.
When Zechariah and Elizabeth met and married they, like any newly married couple, would have prayed to be parents. After many years together their prayer would have changed and they would no longer imagine that children were possible for them.
Zechariah’s prayer had matured from the youthful ‘God give me what I want’ to ‘God, you know my deepest desires, Your will be done.’
The mature person of prayer knows that the deepest human desire is not to have our little prayers magically answered, but to know that God is with us in our joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties.
And I’m not sure that Zechariah was struck dumb as a punishment:
“when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realised that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.”
The one who is seeking to live with Jesus will often struggle with idle chatter and superficiality. In the presence of the divine what can one say since human language struggles to effectively convey divine life? Most people don’t understand anyway. Perhaps this is why Mary “silently pondered these things in her heart” since silence is often the most appropriate response to awareness of God with us.
- Can you remember the things you used to pray for as a child? Perhaps you recall praying to receive a particular Christmas present. How has your prayer changed? What do you consider to be the signs of this maturity in your prayer today?
- What are you praying for today? Now allow the Holy Spirit to enlarge your prayer and deepen your desire for God: “O God, You know my deepest desires. Your will be done”.
O Antiphon: 19 December
O Root of Jesse,
standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us,
and delay no longer.