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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of Zechariah and of Elizabeth, who in her old age conceived John the Baptist.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 1,5-25

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron.

Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.

But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.

Now it happened that it was the turn of his section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God

when it fell to him by lot, as the priestly custom was, to enter the Lord's sanctuary and burn incense there.

And at the hour of incense all the people were outside, praying.

Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense.

The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear.

But the angel said to him, 'Zechariah, do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you shall name him John.

He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth,

for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother's womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,

and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God.

With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.'

Zechariah said to the angel, 'How can I know this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.'

The angel replied, 'I am Gabriel, who stand in God's presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.

Look! Since you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.'

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long.

When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them and remained dumb.

When his time of service came to an end he returned home.

Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept to herself, saying,

'The Lord has done this for me, now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered in public.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel of Luke opens with an angel who speaks to Zechariah in the temple to announce to him the birth of a son, John the Baptist. Zechariah and Elizabeth were sterile, and, moreover, old. They were no longer looking forward to anything except the end of their lives, an obvious conclusion to which they had resigned themselves, an obvious future no different from the one to which many elderly people have resigned themselves. All other hope was denied. In the elderly Zechariah we can see the situation of many elderly men and women, resigned to passing the last years of their lives more or less sadly. But God does not leave his children in sadness; he intervenes with his word and announces to Zechariah that his wife will have a son. It is impossible; it is too much, Zechariah thinks. And he is left mute. The strength and the love of the Lord often clash with our unbelief, and, even though we have the treasure of the Gospel, we become mute, unable to speak or hope. Those who do not listen cannot speak. But God’s love can even overcome our unbelief and our sterility. In her old age, Elizabeth bore a son. No one is so old that he or she cannot see and do new things.

Memory of Jesus crucified