Heaven Holds the Key
December 24, 2016 (readings)
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Father Barry O’Toole, LC
Luke 1: 67-79
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. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his 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 fathers 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 into the way of peace.”
Introductory Prayer: I believe in your loving presence with me, Lord, and I tremble as I consider the immense love you have for me. I do not deserve your grace, and yet I cannot live without it. You have called me to rise above my sin and misery and to live in your love as one of your children. I truly want to show you, my love.
Petition: Lord, help me to seek you and find you through silence.
1. Silence for Reflection: Zechariah had been in silence (a silence imposed by God) for over nine months. Perhaps at the beginning, he had felt frustrated at not being able to communicate normally with others. As time goes on, that frustration turns into resignation and reluctant acceptance. Through perseverance and prayer, suddenly he begins to love the trial God had imposed on him, embracing it wholeheartedly and willingly. When we see someone who is suffering, be it in a hospital, a nursing home or even on the street or at work, we need to bring them this message of hope. Suffering has a meaning, a redemptive value, if we unite our sufferings to those of Christ.
2. Silence for Union with Our Lord: We see that Zechariah’s 9-month “retreat” has provided him the opportunity for a closer contact with God. Through prayer he has been brought to a deeper and experiential knowledge of God, which has converted him into an apostle in his desire to share this experience with others. As his wife’s period of waiting results in her giving birth to a prophet, so Zechariah’s “incubation” period also turns him into a prophet: He foretells that salvation for his people is near at hand. We will have words of wisdom and encouragement for others when we have discovered how to be alone with God in the secret depths of our hearts. Silence is a vehicle for achieving this intimacy.
3. Silence for Praise: At some moment during his tribulation, Zechariah would recall the angel’s words, “you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place” (Luke 1:20). Hope would invade his heart. The day is coming when he would be able to speak again! He has nine months to prepare his speech. The first words he utters as his tongue is loosened are not a curse against God for having made him suffer, but a hymn of praise for his mercy on a sinful humanity. He has experienced this mercy in his flesh. We are meant to communicate truth through speech, and the greatest truth is what God has done for each of us and wishes to do for every single person. When our speech is a result of what we have first meditated on profoundly, our words will bear fruit. Does my speech normally edify others? Do my words ordinarily come from the good I have experienced in God’s company? Am I aware of how much we can build up others through good conversations?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, your birth comes tonight. I want to have a proper place prepared for you. Please help me to make it warm and comfortable for you. Make up for what is lacking in my inadequate efforts to please you. O King of Glory, may my every thought, word and deed of this day be a fitting homage for your coming.
Resolution: Today, I will strive to edify others through my words.