Dec 19, 2020

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.

An Invitation

  • 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.


  1. Thanks John for these beautiful Advent antiphons. In the silence and stillness of each morning they offer me the opportunity to reflect on your invitation. That bubble of silence which has been created by the music is treasured.

  2. My prayers have certainly changed as I have grown older. No more wishing for things that God may provide, more a resignation that God will answer my prayers in due course, sometimes it seems the answer will never come. I still have faith that my prayers will eventually be answered – I hope before I leave this world.

  3. My constant connectivity with people of all ages has kept me very busy this year in my counselling role at the Family Centre.
    It is timely now for me to take leave, to journey to Silence and Stillness and to nurture my spiritual health and well being at this sacred time of Advent.
    There will be no thought and no mind in the spaces of the natural environment where I will share the oneness of harmony and healing.
    Like Zechariah, I will pray in the sanctuary of silence and stillness for the ultimate gifts of Peace, Joy and Love for our collective minds and hearts this Christmas Time. +

  4. Thank you Fr John, just what I needed to be reminded if today! Keep praying, keep focussed and keep trusting God! God bless you!

  5. Thank you John I relate to your thoughts very much and do love using Thy will be done in morning peace and thinking about all sorts of things.

  6. What a wonderfully uplifting message today. We tend to forget that God does not work to our timeframe, rather we need to wait upon God and have faith he will answer our prayers in his time and his way.
    You are right Father John, our prayers do change over time. When I was younger my prayers were more egocentric but now more altruistic as they are generally for others, though I wonder if this is not egocentric as well to a degree, as it tends to salve my conscience and make me feel as if I am doing something for others thus making me feel good.

    • I have the same thought Terry! But can’t stop praying for them!

  7. I agree with those who appreciate the beauty of the sung antiphons
    Tricky ‘clock’ today. Took me a while to get the message! Maybe like prayer.

    My prayer is for couples trying to conceive that their prayer be answered

  8. Amen thank you Father John

  9. ‘Never too late’. Comforting solace for me and for all I pray for.

  10. Yesterday was a day where this prayer was uppermost in my heart as my Son and his wife were undergoing a very stressful time, Praise God His will was done and peace reigns!
    Thank you for the beautiful Antiphons,.. only 6 more sleeps

  11. Thank you Father John. Reignites me every morning giving me purpose.

  12. No matter what time or day I read these, they always feel as if they apply to the exact situation I find myself in.

    Thank you John, they bring much joy, hope and comfort!

    I look forward to spending some time in silence looking for Jesus amongst the chaos that is life.

  13. Hi Fr. John. These reflections are educative. Great timing as Christmas is approaching and we are living in Advent time, and we in the Philippines have somewhat jumbled the celebration. I hope we here won’t stop already celebrating Christmas on December 25 onward!
    Last week, I was invited to a liturgical service that is very “creative” though sincere. The O Antiphon is so helpful for me to once again recognize the Church’s liturgy as a place and time for education by simply participating on the prayer. Your reflection is giving the history, which encourages me to acknowledge that I belong to something bigger. JMJ

  14. “United in Prayer Initials”
    Looking at all,the So Many
    Alphabetical letters,is like a “Tapestry of Initials” that
    Sees, knows the needs of
    each Initial.GOD hears our prayers, in the right time,so as the finished tapestry will be perfect, may I pray to accept with humility,whatever thread
    I am given to assist in the complete picture
    thankyou Fr John.


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