Benedictus!

Christmas Eve marks the final moment where the prophecies of salvation history will be fulfilled in the birth of a Messiah. The Gospel of Luke (1:67-79) gives us a beautiful song of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving that has become a part of the daily prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, for the Church, and rightly so. Each and every day of our lives, we are called to welcome Jesus, to ask him in, to recommit ourselves to be his follower. By God’s grace, we live out our faith, daily conforming ourselves to Christ, in the hope of eternal life with the Resurrected Son of God. Let us pray, giving praise and thanksgiving to God in the words of Zechariah:

“’Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our father and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.’”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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Trust His Faithfulness

Zechariah, husband to Elizabeth and father of John the Baptist, was a good and righteous man who observed “all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” (NAB, LK 1:6) Because of his family lineage, he also had the privilege to serve as priest in the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Zechariah and his wife had grown old without children, and this was seen as a curse from God; people believed that a husband and wife must have some great sin if they are unable to have children. Nevertheless, God blesses Zechariah by sending the Angel Gabriel to him as Zechariah served in the Temple. “The angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.’” (LK 1:11-15)

The Angel makes other promises to Zechariah about John, but then Zechariah, a man of faith and a man who had witnessed the faithfulness of God many times, questions whether this could even happen. Zechariah doubts the prophecy of God’s messenger. Zechariah has fears that God “can’t deliver” on this one. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Elizabeth did conceive a child, and that Zechariah, as a consequence for his disbelief, was made silent until the birth and naming of his child.

God makes so many promises to us in his Word. And we can look back on our lives and see the many, many times that God has been faithful to us: moments when he has brought us through incredibly difficult times; rewards we have received; the graciousness of God; his mercy and forgiveness, despite our waywardness and sins; and his constant, pursuing love for us, even when we have ignored it. We have received so many blessings from God, and yet, we ourselves, like Zechariah, doubt him and his faithfulness. We question his love for us. We want to choose our own way instead of his. We have decided to choose other paths, when God’s way is clear before us.

Father, give me wisdom and right mind to see you present in my life. Give me courage and faith to trust your promises and your Word. I know that you love me beyond my wildest imagination and understanding; may this knowledge and your grace allow me to release control of my life to you, so that I may follow you as a true and loving disciple, always trusting in your providence and love, and always seeking to do your will. Amen.

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Fiery Faith

Elijah was a powerful preacher and prophet in Ancient Israel. Sirach tells us, “Like a fire, there appeared the prophet Elijah, whose words were like a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; by the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wonderous deeds!” (NAB, SIR 48:1-4) Elijah truly was a great prophet whose prophecies were fulfilled by and through the very life of Jesus. This fulfillment is partly what gives us confidence in the divine Jesus as Christ, the Messiah, who came to save God’s people.

Jesus likens John the Baptist to the new Elijah. John was foretold by Elijah to be the “one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (MT 3:3) In fact, it was the preaching of John which called the people of God to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (3:2) His fiery preaching would eventually cost him his life, but John knew his mission and persevered in faith. We owe a debt to John, who first made the Paschal connection regarding Jesus, whereupon seeing Jesus coming toward the Jordan river, John cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (JN 1:29)

Lord, give me a voice on fire for you, a voice that fearlessly proclaims your Word in the midst of this world wrought with so many trials and difficulties. May my life always point to you, your love, and your mercy, and may I persevere in the continual renewal and conversion of myself. Amen.

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