Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

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

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the page of Matthew that reports Jesus’ genealogy, the liturgy presents to us the passage of the Gospel of Luke that recounts the announcement of the angel to Zechariah while he is in the temple; the angel announces to him the birth of a son, John. It is a kind of preparation for participating in the announcement of Jesus’ birth. The Word of God wants to help our mind and heart to open to its mystery and it shows the old couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who expected to close their lives without their continuation through a son. They did not have a child because they were barren. Old, they did not expect anything else but a serene death. We could say nothing more natural than that. In this couple we can see the lives of many of the elderly who are resigned to spend the last years of their lives in a more or less unhappy way, often alone, and in any case, without hope for the future. It is a condition that is becoming more and more common and crueller in our opulent societies. The progress of medicine, fortunately, prolongs life, and, unfortunately, the time of loneliness and sadness also becomes longer. Fewer and fewer people take care of the elderly and truly few people spend time talking with them. And yet, in his temple, the Lord sends an angel to speak with Zechariah and to tell him that he will have a son. It seems impossible to Zechariah; the absence of hope was so rooted in his heart that it was without hope of any newness. The old priest probably thought it was too much. And hopelessness prevails over the angel’s words. This is what also happens to us when we allow hopelessness to win in our heart, that same hopelessness that makes us unbelievers of the Gospel words. The strength and the love of the Lord often clash with our incredulity. And as it happened to Zechariah, we become mute, unable to speak and hope. Those who do not listen to the Word of God are not able to speak, to speak words of hope for themselves and for others. But if we welcome God’s love, if we let the word of the angel reach our heart, our incredulity and sterility will be defeated. We too will see a new future rise up; we too like Elizabeth and Zechariah, will be able to conceive a new future, a new world, a new fraternity. No one is too old to listen to the Gospel and make a better future for oneself and for others. This is the meaning of Christmas that we are about to celebrate.