REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
December 23, 2020
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:64
Our gospel reference today 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 doubted or 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 doubt or disbelief to belief. And it was this act of faith that undid his prior doubt. God restored his power of speech.
Every one of our lives will be marked by failures to believe on the deepest level of faith. In this time of great uncertainty and the various challenges of life and faith, we may have been at our lowest level of faith in God seeing the havoc COVID-19 has brought on humanity. 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.