Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Luke 1:18-20: Zechariah's Fault; Our Fault

From The Holy Gospel of Saint Luke 1:18-20

[18] And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." [19] And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. [20] And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time."

       Today’s gospel grabs me, especially the above section regarding Zechariah’s reply to the angel Gabriel. Contemplatively, I look at this passage and consider the situation as if I were in the temple of the Lord in front of the burning incense. Would I have been scared? You bet! That the angel Gabriel, an angel who stands in the presence of God and who in the next lines appears to Our Lady at the annunciation, stands in front of Zechariah and gives him the information regarding his future son John the Baptist’s birth is reason for awe-struck fear. This is a story that I have read before but took at face value and moved on to the annunciation to Our Lady. However, Zechariah’s epiphany is quite important not only to the preparing for the coming of our Lord, but to understanding ourselves and how we react in the presence of God’s message.
       Zechariah is a righteous man who is devoted to God. He, like many of us who embrace our faith, is heartily trying to live a life according to God’s will. But he loses faith at a crucial time. Zechariah is face-to-face with one of God’s key messengers and questions Gabriel’s validity. How can someone so upright and devoted to the rules and ordinances of the Lord lose his faith? Let’s think of our own trials. Aren't there times when we align our lives with Christ and express our love to Him in any way we can, when, all of a sudden, something happens that is out of our paradigm of understanding? Take that moment, and our fallen humanity, and we have a moment of shaken faith.
No matter how hard we try, it is never through our own abilities that we can be righteous and “earn” our way to holiness. We are flawed people susceptible to our human weaknesses, even the most righteous and blameless of us. (By the way, I am on the opposite end of righteous.) We slip up; we fall. It is only through the gifts, blessings, and graces of God that we are strengthened. Zechariah slips, for he is stricken with doubt, and Gabriel, through the loving grace of God, temporarily takes Zachariah’s speech. It is interesting how Zechariah loses his speech in order to open his eyes.
       I pray that we all are blessed with the fortitude, wisdom, and grace from our Lord to always follow His will and not our own.  For as the angel Gabriel says to Our Lady in Luke 1:37, "With God all things are possible."