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Embracing the Mysteries of Life
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20–21
As we begin the Fourth Week of Advent, we focus ever more directly upon the miracle that took place over 2,000 years ago. The passage quoted above presents us with the words of the angel of the Lord who spoke to Joseph in a dream. This was one of four dreams that Joseph had in which an angel spoke to him concerning the Christ Child.
Saint Joseph is described in Matthew’s Gospel as “a righteous man” who was unwilling to expose his betrothed wife, Mary, to shame. We know the story well. Mary became pregnant after being betrothed to Joseph but before they lived together, and Joseph didn’t understand how this happened. Mary’s virtue and goodness would have appeared to contradict the possibility of her becoming pregnant when she did. Joseph was planning on doing what he thought was the honorable thing. He decided to divorce her quietly so that she would not endure public shame.
But God’s plan was so much greater than what Joseph could initially comprehend. The Incarnation of the Son of God within the womb of his betrothed required supernatural understanding. And that’s what Joseph was given. Though he had a dream in which an angel spoke to him, a dream was not enough. The dream also needed to be accompanied by the gift of supernatural knowledge. Joseph listened in the dream and believed by the interior revelation of faith that this incredible reality was true. This Child was indeed conceived by the Holy Spirit within the virginal womb of his betrothed, and Joseph accepted his God-given responsibility.
Joseph’s witness is one to ponder and be inspired by. First, it’s essential that we ponder the story as it happened and be inspired by God’s singularly unique plan by which He took on our human nature. But Joseph also provides us with inspiration for our own callings in life. Joseph inspires us to face any and every mystery in life that we encounter with the utmost trust in God. God’s wisdom and ways are always far beyond ours. Very often in life, God will call us to walk an unknown and mysterious path. Life does not always make perfect sense from a purely rational perspective. Very often, we must allow our human reason to be informed and led by God’s supernatural plan. For each of us, this mysterious path will be different. But if we are to walk by the same faith that Saint Joseph had, then we must always be willing to accept the most sublime mysteries in life and allow God’s revealing Word to clarify them.
Reflect, today, upon any way that you feel challenged by life’s circumstances. What tempts you to doubt, to be confused, or to feel uncertain? What is it that requires supernatural knowledge on your part to embrace? If God the Father chose to bring forth His divine Son in such a mysterious way, then we should not be surprised when God calls us to embrace similar mysteries in life. Walk by faith. Be inspired by Saint Joseph. Say “Yes” to that which God is asking of you. As you do, you will find that you will begin to walk down the most glorious road you can walk.
Most glorious Saint Joseph, you were a man of true righteousness and integrity. You were open to the inspired gift of faith and chose to walk by that faith as you faced the greatest of mysteries. Please pray for me that I may learn from you and be inspired to imitate the life that you lived. Saint Joseph, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Gazing Upon the Mother of God
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26–28
What an amazing experience this would have been. This humble servant of God, a young girl, was visited by the archangel Gabriel and greeted with the salutation, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Try to imagine her experience. She was humble beyond comprehension, filled with every heavenly virtue, loved God with all her heart and suddenly came face-to-face with this glorious and most magnificent archangel. And this heavenly visitor showered the deepest of praises upon this lowly servant of the Lord.
At first, in her humility, Mary simply pondered this greeting. She pondered it in her heart through prayer and faith. Then the archangel spoke further: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Though Mary inquired further about how this could be, she quickly gave her consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” And it was these words of this young woman that continuously echoed in her heart throughout her life.
Mother Mary was great for many reasons. She was the Immaculate Conception—the one singularly conceived without sin in the womb of her own mother. She was the one chosen by the Father to bring forth the Savior of the World as her only begotten Son. But her greatness is especially found in her ongoing submission to the will of God. “May it be done to me according to your word.” This is what she said over and over throughout her life. This is her perfect “fiat” to her God. All she knew was surrender and submission to all that God asked of her. And it is this, more than anything else, that made her the worthy Mother of God.
Though none of us were immaculately conceived within our mother’s wombs and none of us have remained without sin throughout our lives, we must all strive to be inspired by this holy woman. We must all ponder her deep humility and her willing acceptance of God’s will in her life. And we must all strive to imitate her fiat and her perfect virtue.
Imitation of our Blessed Mother is accomplished by first coming to know her, understand her and love who she is. Gazing upon her interior beauty and holiness presents us with the vision of the perfection to which we are all called. As we prayerfully gaze upon her heart and come to understand her virtues more clearly, we will be inspired to open our own hearts so as to imitate her by the grace of God. This prayerful exercise is one of the best and quickest ways to obtain the heights of holiness to which God has called us.
Reflect, today, upon this holy daughter of the Most High. She is not one we can “figure out.” Instead, she is one whom we can come to know through prayer and through God’s inspiration. Ponder her prayerfully. Be open to her inspiration. And allow the Holy Spirit to also overshadow you so that you will more closely be able to imitate her in her holy virtues.
My dearest Mother, you lived a life of perfect virtue and holiness. You continuously pondered the mysteries of God in your heart and always surrendered to the will of God with perfection. Please inspire me so that I may not only learn from you but also be able to share in the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit given to you. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wonder and Awe
Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C)
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:42–43
Elizabeth expressed a beautiful humility in this statement. The Blessed Virgin Mary had just made a long journey to be with Elizabeth in her final months of pregnancy. As soon as our Blessed Mother greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, Saint John the Baptist, leaped for joy in her womb. Elizabeth acknowledges this and then humbly expresses the fact that she is exceptionally blessed to have Mary, the mother of her Lord, come to visit her.
There are many things worth pondering in this visitation of our Blessed Mother. But try to focus upon the humble wonder and awe expressed by Elizabeth. “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth was clearly grateful for Mary’s visit. But it appears that her reaction went even beyond gratitude. She was given the gift of wonder and awe. She clearly knew she was incredibly blessed by the fact that both the Mother of God and her Lord Himself were now in her presence in her home.
This gift of wonder and awe that Elizabeth experienced is one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s a gift that enters a humble heart, enabling it to first see its unworthiness of a special grace given. But then this humble soul receives the special grace and responds with an overwhelming amazement. Thus, not only is gratitude present, but there is also this holy amazement that results in praise of God.
In our own lives, there are so many incredible graces we have received from God. But too often we fail to see them for what they are. We fail to see the incredible graces God has given us and, thus, fail to experience the amazement that should result from God’s gifts.
As you look at your own life, what graces has God given to you? Do you see them? Are you grateful for them? And, if so, are you able to go even beyond gratitude so as to experience a holy wonder and awe of God’s goodness and blessings in your life? Though it might be difficult to arrive at this level of amazement, it is a true gift that we must all strive to obtain and experience every day of our lives.
Reflect, today, upon this holy gift of the Holy Spirit that Elizabeth experienced. Place yourself at the scene. Try to see the experience within her heart. Try to feel how she felt. Try to sense the praise that resulted. And try to open yourself more fully to receive this same gift of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Lord comes to you constantly by grace, especially every time you receive Him in Holy Communion. For that reason, we must all strive to live a holy wonder and awe every day of our lives.
My most glorious Lord, You grace me beyond imagination. Too often, I fail to experience the gratitude and the wonder and awe that should result. Please help me to first see the countless blessings of Your grace and presence in my life. And as I see them, please fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I, too, may continually sing Your worthy praises. Jesus, I trust in You.
An Amazing Reality
December 17, Advent Weekday
Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Matthew 1:15–16
The last line of the Gospel passage above offers much for us to meditate upon this day and throughout the week ahead. “Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.” What an amazing reality we celebrate! God Himself took on our human life, experienced conception, birth, infancy, childhood, etc. As a human, He also experienced hatred, abuse, persecution, and murder. Again, what an amazing reality we celebrate!
For the next eight days, the readings for Mass will focus more directly upon this amazing reality. We ponder today the lineage of Christ Jesus and see that He comes from the line of Abraham and David and that His ancestors were the great Judges, Kings and Levitical Priests. In the coming days of preparation for Christmas, we will ponder the role of Saint Joseph, the response of our Blessed Mother to the angel, the Visitation, Zechariah’s lack of faith and our Blessed Mother’s perfect faith.
As we enter into this octave of immediate preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ, do use it as a time of true spiritual preparation. Though all of Advent is a season of preparation, these final days should especially focus upon the great mysteries surrounding the Incarnation and birth of the Christ Child. We must ponder the people Whom God chose to be intimately involved, and we should reflect upon the smallest of details regarding how this miracle of miracles took place.
Reflect, today, upon the true reason for Advent and Christmas. This final week leading up to Christmas can oftentimes become filled with busyness and other forms of preparation, such as shopping, cooking, traveling, decorating, etc. Though all of these other preparations have a place, don’t neglect the most important preparation—the spiritual preparation of your soul. Spend time with the Scriptures this week. Savor the story. Think about the amazing reality that we are about to celebrate.
My precious Lord, I thank you for coming to dwell among us, and I thank you for this Advent season in which I am able to prayerfully ponder all that You have done for me. Please make this last week before Christmas a time of true preparation in which I prayerfully ponder the amazing reality of Your Incarnation. May this last week of preparation not be wasted but, rather, used as a foundation for a glorious and prayerful celebration of the holy gift of Christmas. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Mysterious Pregnancy and Apparent Scandal
December 18, Advent Weekday
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:18–19
Mary’s pregnancy was truly mysterious. In fact, it was so mysterious that even Saint Joseph initially couldn’t accept it. But, to Joseph’s defense, who could accept such a thing? He was faced with what was a most confusing situation. The woman to whom he was engaged was suddenly with child, and Joseph knew he was not the father. But he also knew that Mary was a holy and pure woman. So, naturally speaking, it makes sense that this situation simply did not make immediate sense. But that’s the key. “Naturally speaking” this did not make immediate sense. The only way to understand the situation of Mary’s sudden pregnancy was through supernatural means. Thus, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and that dream was all he needed to accept this mysterious pregnancy in faith.
It’s amazing to consider the fact that the greatest event to ever take place in human history happened under a cloud of apparent scandal and confusion. The angel revealed the deep spiritual truth to Joseph secretly, in a dream. And though Joseph may have shared his dream with others, it’s most likely the case that many people still assumed the worst. Most would have presumed that Mary was pregnant either by Joseph or by someone else. The idea that this conception was the working of the Holy Spirit would have been a truth beyond what their friends and relatives could ever comprehend.
But this presents us with a great lesson about judgment and the action of God. There are countless examples in life when God and His perfect will lead to judgment, apparent scandal and confusion. Take, for example, any martyr of old. We now look at the many acts of martyrdom in a heroic way. But when the martyrdom actually happened, many would have been deeply saddened, angered, scandalized and confused. Many, at the time of a loved one being martyred for the faith, would be tempted to question why God permitted this.
The holy act of forgiving another could also lead some to a form of “scandal” in life. Take, for example, the crucifixion of Jesus. From the Cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them…” Were not many of His followers confused and scandalized? Why didn’t Jesus defend Himself? How could the promised Messiah have been found guilty by the authorities and killed? Why did God allow this?
Reflect, today, upon the mystery of God’s actions in life. Are there things in your own life that are hard to accept, to embrace, or to understand? Know that you are not alone in this. Even Saint Joseph experienced this. Prayerfully commit yourself to a deeper faith in God’s wisdom in the face of any mystery with which you struggle. And know that this faith will help you to live more fully in accord with the glorious wisdom of God.
Lord, I turn to You with the deepest mysteries of my life. Help me to face them all with confidence and courage. Give me Your mind and Your wisdom so that I can walk each day in faith, trusting in Your perfect plan, even when that plan appears mysterious. Jesus, I trust in You.
Faith or Doubt?
December 19, Advent Weekday
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Luke 1:19–20
Imagine if the Archangel Gabriel appeared to you. What would that have been like? This particular Archangel stands before the incomprehensible beauty and splendor of the Most Holy Trinity and brings forth messages of the greatest importance. Gabriel is God’s most notable messenger. Take a moment to ponder what such a glorious apparition would have been like.
In the passage above, this glorious Archangel appears to Zechariah as he is fulfilling his priestly duty to burn incense before the Lord within the Holy of Holies. As Zechariah enters the sanctuary while all the people remain outside praying, he suddenly has a vision of the Archangel telling him that his wife Elizabeth will have a child, even though she is advanced in years. But even though Zechariah hears this message from Gabriel, the Archangel who stands before God, he doubts what he is being told.
Would you have believed the Archangel Gabriel if you were Zechariah? Or would you have doubted? Though there may not be a way to know the answer to that question, it’s helpful to ponder the humble truth that you very well may have doubted. It takes true humility to admit that possibility. Like Zechariah, we are all weak and sinful. We lack the perfect faith that our Blessed Mother had. And if you can humbly admit this, then you are in a great position to overcome the weakness of faith you struggle with. Zechariah suffered much for his lack of faith, but that suffering led to a renewal of faith when he named his child John in obedience to the Archangel.
Reflect, today, upon how well you listen to all that God says to you. Do you listen, believe and obey? Or do you question and doubt God’s voice. Know that God speaks to you each and every day. Admit the ways that you lack perfect faith and allow that act of humble acknowledgment to strengthen you where you need help the most.
Lord, I know I lack the depth of perfect faith that I so deeply desire to have. I know that You speak to me day and night, and I fail to listen and obey. As I humble myself before You and confess my weakness of faith, strengthen me to respond more fully each day to all that You say to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Running to the Will of God
December 20, Advent Weekday
And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
Try to set aside all that you know about Jesus and simply ponder these words of the Archangel Gabriel as if you were to hear them as our Blessed Mother did for the very first time. She was told she would have a child, even though she had not had relations with a man. She was told that this pregnancy would happen by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. And she was told that her Child would be the Son of God. What was Mary to think about these amazing revelations given to her by this most glorious archangel?
The ordinary person would most likely conclude that this was some sort of hallucination and that what they were seeing and hearing was the result of some temporary psychological disorder. Perhaps she was dreaming? Or perhaps it was something she unknowingly ingested that has led to this experience?
But our Blessed Mother was no ordinary person, and she had no ordinary mind. Her mind was perfectly sharp on account of her immaculate nature. And her mind was continually “full of grace,” as Gabriel said in his greeting to her. She knew God’s voice, and she knew that this archangel was speaking to her a message from on high. As a result, she listened, accepted, believed and consented.
We can also conclude that Mary did even more than merely consent. The love she had for God and His will would have been so strong that she would have been filled with an immediate and burning desire to fulfill this command of the archangel. She would have been filled with a holy desire to do all she could to bring about this miraculous calling she had received. And this calling would have immediately become the central purpose of her life.
Though none of us has been given the unique and glorious vocation that was given to our Blessed Mother, we are all most certainly given a mission by God. Sometimes we listen and consider it. Sometimes we choose to embrace it. But the ideal is that we imitate our Blessed Mother and run to it. We must not only be open. We must not only submit. We must also allow every desire within our soul, every passion we have and every longing within us to work toward the accomplishment of God’s will.
What is it that God is calling you to do in life? What is your purpose? What is your mission? If you struggle in answering these questions, then perhaps start by praying for the deep and all-consuming holy desire to accomplish that which God has chosen for you. If all you desire is the fulfillment of the will of God, then when God reveals His will to you, you will more easily and more quickly be able to accomplish it.
Reflect, today, upon the unique mission that God has given to you. Whatever He has called you to do with your life is a calling given only to you. Do not run from it. Do not reluctantly accept it. Instead, run to it with your whole being and allow God to do great things through you.
Most holy Lord, I know that You have a perfect plan for my life. I know that You have given me a mission that has not been given to anyone else. Please flood my soul with a holy desire to fully accomplish Your will and to do so with the most fervent commitment and strength. I, too, am a servant of You, O Lord; may it be done to me according to Your will. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Bringing Christ to Others
December 21, Advent Weekday
Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Luke 1:39–40
We are presented today with the glorious story of the Visitation. When Mary was about two months pregnant, she traveled to be with her cousin Elizabeth who was to give birth within a month. Though much could be said about this as an act of familial love given from Mary to Elizabeth, the central focus immediately becomes the precious Child within the womb of Mary.
Imagine the scene. Mary had just traveled about 100 miles. She was most likely exhausted. As she finally arrived, she would have been relieved and joyful at the completion of her journey. But Elizabeth says something quite inspiring at that moment, which elevates the joy of all present, including the joy of Mother Mary. Elizabeth says, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). Again, imagine the scene. It was this tiny child within Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, who immediately perceived the presence of the Lord and leaped for joy. And it was Elizabeth who immediately perceived the joy in her child living within her womb. As Elizabeth expressed this to Mary, who was already joyful at completing her journey, Mary was suddenly all the more overjoyed at the realization that she had brought to Elizabeth and John the Savior of the World living within her womb.
This story should teach us much about what is most important in life. Yes, it’s important to reach out in love to others. It’s important to care for our relatives and friends when they need us the most. It’s important to be sacrificial with our time and energies for the good of others, because through these acts of humble service, we certainly share the love of God. But most importantly, we must bring Christ Jesus Himself to others. Elizabeth was not filled with joy first and foremost because Mary was there to help her in her pregnancy. Rather, she was overjoyed primarily because Mary brought her Jesus, her Lord, living within her womb.
Though we do not bring Christ in the same way as our Blessed Mother did, we nonetheless must make this our central mission in life. First, we must foster a love and devotion to our Lord so deep that He truly dwells within us. Then, we must bring Him who dwells within us to others. This is unquestionably the greatest act of charity we will ever be able to offer to another.
Reflect, today, not only upon your mission to invite your Lord to dwell within you as our Blessed Mother did but also upon your Christian duty to then bring Him who dwells within you to others. Do others encounter Christ living within you with joy? Do they sense His presence in your life and respond with gratitude? Regardless of their response, commit yourself to this holy calling of bringing Christ to others as an act of the deepest love.
Lord, please do dwell within me. Come and transform me by Your holy presence. As You do come to me, help me to then become a missionary of Your divine presence by bringing You to others so that they may encounter the joy of Your presence. Make me a pure instrument, dear Lord, and use me to inspire all whom I encounter every day. Jesus, I trust in You.
Proclaim and Rejoice!
December 22, Advent Weekday
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46–47
There is an age-old question that asks, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Well, perhaps it’s an age-old “question” because only God knows the answer to how He created the world and all the creatures within it.
Today, this first line from the glorious song of praise of our Blessed Mother, the Magnificat, poses to us another question. “Which comes first, to praise God or to rejoice in Him?” Perhaps you’ve never asked yourself that question, but it’s worth pondering both the question and the answer.
This first line of Mary’s song of praise identifies two actions taking place within her. She “proclaims” and she “rejoices.” Think about those two interior experiences. The question can be better phrased like this: Did Mary proclaim God’s greatness because she was first filled with joy? Or was she filled with joy because she first proclaimed the greatness of God? Perhaps the answer is a bit of both, but the ordering of this line in Sacred Scripture implies that she first proclaimed and as a result was filled with joy.
This is not just a philosophical or theoretical reflection; rather, it is a very practical one that offers significant insight into our daily lives. Oftentimes in life we wait to be “inspired” by God before we thank and praise Him. We wait until God touches us, fills us with a joyful experience, answers our prayer and then we respond with gratitude. This is good. But why wait? Why wait to proclaim the greatness of God?
Should we proclaim the greatness of God when things are difficult in life? Yes. Should we proclaim the greatness of God when we do not feel His presence in our lives? Yes. Should we proclaim the greatness of God even when we encounter the heaviest of crosses in life? Most certainly yes.
Proclaiming the greatness of God should not only be done after some powerful inspiration or answer to prayer. It should not only be done after we experience the closeness of God. Proclaiming God’s greatness is a duty of love and must always be done, every day, in every circumstance, no matter what. We proclaim God’s greatness primarily because of Who He is. He is God. And He is worthy of all our praise for that fact alone.
Interestingly, however, the choice to proclaim the greatness of God, both in good times and in difficult times, often also leads to the experience of joy. It appears that Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her Savior primarily because she first proclaimed His greatness. Joy comes from first serving God, loving Him and giving Him the honor due His name.
Reflect, today, upon this twofold process of proclaiming and rejoicing. Proclaiming must always come first, even if we feel as though there is nothing to rejoice about. But if you can commit yourself to the proclamation of the greatness of God, you will suddenly find that you have discovered the deepest cause of joy in life: God Himself.
Dearest Mother, you chose to proclaim the greatness of God. You acknowledged His glorious action in your life and in the world, and your proclamation of these truths filled you with joy. Pray for me that I may also seek to glorify God each and every day, no matter what challenges or blessings I receive. May I imitate you, dear Mother, and share also in your perfect joy. Mother Mary, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
December 23, Advent Weekday
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:64
This line reveals the happy conclusion to Zechariah’s initial failure to believe in what God revealed to him. Recall that nine months earlier, as Zechariah was fulfilling his priestly duty of offering sacrifice within the Holy of Holies in the Temple, he received a visit from the glorious Archangel Gabriel, who stands before God. Gabriel revealed to Zechariah the good news that his wife would conceive in her old age and that this child would be the one to prepare the people of Israel for the coming Messiah. What an incredible privilege that would have been! But Zechariah disbelieved. And as a result, the Archangel struck him mute for the nine months of his wife’s pregnancy.
The punishments of the Lord are always gifts of His grace. Zechariah was not punished out of spite, or for punitive reasons. Instead, this punishment was more like a penance. He was given the humbling penance of losing his ability to speak for nine months for a good reason. It appears as if God knew that Zechariah needed nine months to silently reflect upon what the Archangel had said. He needed nine months to ponder his wife’s miraculous pregnancy. And he needed nine months to ponder who this child would be. And those nine months produced the desired effect of a full conversion of heart.
After the child was born, it was expected that this firstborn son would be named after the father, Zechariah. But the Archangel had told Zechariah that the child was to be named John. Therefore, on the eighth day, the day of his son’s circumcision when he was presented to the Lord, Zechariah wrote on a tablet that the baby’s name was John. This was an act of faith and a sign that he had fully turned from disbelief to belief. And it was this act of faith that undid his prior doubt.
Every one of our lives will be marked by failures to believe on the deepest level of faith. For that reason, Zechariah is a model for us of how we are to deal with our failures. We deal with them by allowing the consequences of past failures to change us for the good. We learn from our mistakes and move forward with new resolutions. This is what Zechariah did, and this is what we must do if we wish to learn from his good example.
Reflect, today, upon any sin you have committed that has had painful consequences in your life. As you ponder that sin, the real question is where you go from here. Do you allow that past sin, or lack of faith, to dominate and control your life? Or do you use your past failures to make new resolutions and decisions for the future so as to learn from your mistakes? It takes courage, humility and strength to imitate the example of Zechariah. Seek to bring these virtues into your life this day.
Lord, I know I lack faith in my life. I fail to believe all that You speak to me. As a result, I often fail to put Your words into action. Dear Lord, when I suffer as a result of my weakness, help me to know that this and all suffering can result in giving glory to You if I renew my faith. Help me, like Zechariah, to return to You always, and use me as an instrument of Your manifest glory. Jesus, I trust in You.
Transformation by the Holy Spirit
December 24, Advent Weekday
Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free…” Luke 1:67–68
Our story of the birth of Saint John the Baptist concludes today with the song of praise spoken by Zechariah after his tongue had been loosened on account of his transformation in faith. He had moved from doubting what the Archangel Gabriel had spoken to him to believing and following the command of the Archangel to name his firstborn son “John.” As we saw in yesterday’s reflection, Zechariah is a model and example for those who have lacked faith, have suffered the consequences of their lack of faith, and have changed as a result.
Today, we see an even fuller illustration of what happens when we change. No matter how deeply we have doubted in the past, no matter how far we have turned from God, when we turn back to Him with all our heart, we can hope to experience the same thing experienced by Zechariah. First, we see that Zechariah is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” And as a result of this gift of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah “prophesied.” These two revelations are very significant.
As we prepare for the celebration of the Birth of Christ tomorrow on Christmas Day, we are also called to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” so that we also can act as a prophetic messenger of the Lord. Though Christmas is all about the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Christ Jesus our Lord, the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Holy Trinity) plays just as much of a significant role in the glorious event, both at that time and also today. Recall that it was by the Holy Spirit Who overshadowed Mother Mary that she conceived the Christ Child. In today’s Gospel, it was the Holy Spirit Who enabled Zechariah to proclaim the greatness of God’s act of sending John the Baptist ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Him. Today, it must be the Holy Spirit Who fills our lives so as to enable us to proclaim the Christmas Truth.
In our day and age, Christmas has become very secular in many parts of the world. Few people take time on Christmas to truly pray and worship God for all that He has done. Few people continually proclaim that glorious message of the Incarnation to family and friends during this most solemn celebration. How about you? Are you able to be a true “prophet” of the Most High God this Christmas? Has the Holy Spirit overshadowed you and filled you with the grace needed to point others to this glorious reason for our celebration?
Reflect, today, upon the role of the Holy Spirit in your life this day. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you, inspire you, and strengthen you, and to give to you the wisdom you need to be a mouthpiece of the glorious gift of the birth of the Savior of the World this Christmas. No other gift could be more important to give to others than this message of truth and love.
Holy Spirit, I give You my life and invite You to come to me, to overshadow me and to fill me with Your divine presence. As You fill me, give me the wisdom I need to speak of Your greatness and to be an instrument through which others are drawn into the glorious celebration of the birth of the Savior of the World. Come, Holy Spirit, fill me, consume me and use me for Your glory. Jesus, I trust in You.
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