St Elizabeth and St Zachary

Parents of St John the Baptist (entered heaven this day in 461)

Dear Zach,

I’m glad you’re having such a good year on the gridiron.  You can’t imagine how much I would love to see you play. Unfortunately, college football isn’t such a priority for the guards here.  I’ll have to depend on your highlights to keep me posted.

One little avuncular warning for you, though, as regards your sports career.  You know better than I do how success in athletics tends to lead to arrogance.  Those who perform Herculean tasks on the playing field easily fall prey to the temptation of thinking they are, indeed, Hercules, able to do whatever they want, impervious to the limits bounding the behavior of the rest of us mere mortals.  You also know how foolhardy and dangerous such a mindset can be. And you also know (and this ONLY you know – I can’t tell from this distance) how much such a mindset has trickled into your consciousness. If you find that you need to purge it, or inoculate yourself against it, you could do a lot worse than contemplate the words and examples of today’s saints.

You know them well; they take center stage in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel.  Elizabeth is Mary’s cousin. She and Zachary had a great marriage, and God was pleased with how faithful they were to the ideals of humility, and fidelity, and zeal for the heavenly Kingdom.  But they reached old age without having any children – a painful burden, one that the Jewish culture of the time considered a punishment from God. Then, you remember, the archangel Gabriel appears to St Zachary while he is leading prayers in the Temple, and announces that Elizabeth will bear a son, who will be the precursor to the Messiah, later known as John the Baptist.  And that’s exactly what happens; the last and greatest of the prophets comes into the world and gets it ready to receive the Savior.

Neither Elizabeth, nor Zachary (nor John the Baptist, for that matter), played football, to the best of my knowledge.  But they did learn a lesson valuable even for football players. They lived life with God and his Kingdom in first place; they sought happiness primarily in furthering God’s Plan, not the Game Plan.  You see this wisdom reflected in almost all their words. Elizabeth tells Mary that “Blessed is she who believed that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled” – blessedness, true happiness, comes from trusting and obeying God, not arrogantly sidelining him.  Zachary’s got some great lines too. One of my favorites is: “Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel… He has raised up for us a might Savior, born of the House of David…” He thanks God for sending a Savior. That means he recognized his need for a Savior. That, my athletic young nephew, is true wisdom.  I hope the flashes of reporters’ cameras and the glare of stadium lights never extinguish that wisdom in you.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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