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Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Optional Memorial of Saint John of Kanty, Priest
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, let me enter into your heart in this time of prayer. You are good and faithful, and want to spend this time with me even more than I do with you. In fact, you so desire to be close to me that you became man and took on my flesh, became a baby for love of me to redeem me—to redeem the world. Prepare my heart for your coming and help me to enter this moment of prayer with you.
- Something New: Each in their own way, Zechariah and Elizabeth spent these nine months of preparation pondering and praising God for his action in their family. Perhaps the words of Isaiah wove themselves into their thoughts, as this prophecy certainly seemed to take flesh in them: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Seasons of preparation–“desert times”–can be long, dry, and difficult, but for the faithful, there is always cause for hope. Unlike Elizabeth and Zechariah, we have the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ Incarnate. “My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:2).
- This Name: While Zechariah and Elizabeth’s extended family must have rejoiced at the extraordinary circumstances that surrounded the birth of this child, they did not yet understand the deep mysteries unfolding before them. Elizabeth broke with custom by insisting the baby be named John, and Zechariah’s vocal affirmation confirmed for all that God was at work. Yet, everyone present saw only an ordinary baby in his mother’s arms. John’s parents trusted in this new action of God without understanding or seeing exactly how it would evolve. May they intercede for us when we are fearful for the future and want signs from God that everything will be alright.
- Fear versus Faith: Elizabeth and Zechariah believed that the Lord’s hand, which sustained and upheld them, would also lead them to fulfill God’s will. However, the crowd that witnessed Zechariah’s miracle were fearful and spread their fear to friends and neighbors. Fortunately, the neighbors took these eyewitness accounts to heart and believed. When the unexpected happens in our lives, do we respond in fear or in faith? What’s required from us in times of uncertainty is faith: “By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer” (CCC 143). Faith is freely given by God to each of us when we ask for it. “To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church (CCC 162).
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, how much your heart must have rejoiced with Zechariah and Elizabeth on this day. Your plan of salvation was just beginning to be revealed. As Advent draws to a close, I am waiting with them today, and all our world is waiting for your coming. Fill my heart with your grace, that I may be ready to receive you with greater faith, hope, and love.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will strive to bless you for your goodness amidst the day’s perhaps busy preparations for Christmas.
For Further Reflection: You may wish to take a look ahead at the readings for Christmas Day and see how to incorporate them into your family’s Christmas celebration.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid and Valencia, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families and young people she’s there to serve.