Friday, December 19, 2014

“God reveals possibilities through impossibilities"!

“Finding God in all things is not an ‘empirical eureka.’ When we desire to encounter God, we would like to verify him immediately by an empirical method. But you cannot meet God this way. God is found in the gentle breeze perceived by Elijah.” - Pope Francis

Gospel text (LK 1,5-25): In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah's wife, also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God and lived blamelessly in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense all the people were praying outside; it was then that an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him. But the angel said to him, «Don't be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb. Through him many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He himself will open the way to the Lord with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children, and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready for the Lord a people prepared».

Zechariah said to the angel, «How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too». The angel replied, «I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you and bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe and now you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened».

Meanwhile the people waited for Zechariah, and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home and some time later Elizabeth became pregnant. For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, «What is the Lord doing for me! This is his time for mercy and for taking away my public disgrace».

When a couple becomes aware that they will not be able to conceive and bear children easily, they seem to follow a common path. First, they try to "fix" it themselves. After a few months, they realize that's not working. Then, one of them, usually the wife, will talk about the "problem" with family members or best friends. The couple will get all kinds of advice, from diets to folklore remedies. With each passing month and year, the seriousness of the situation becomes clear. Then, there are the visits to the doctors, clinics and "new therapies." By this time, God enters the picture. Those who are religious will begin novenas, light candles or make special promises to God or to the Blessed Virgin Mary or to a favorite saint to help them conceive. Sometimes, they will even talk to a priest or a religious. As one can imagine, a childless marriage can cause many stresses in the relationship. Each spouse wonders, "Whose fault is it?"

The Gospel reading also is a story of a barren wife. This time it is Mary's cousin, Elizabeth. This account is interesting because the husband, Zachariah, receives the news first. It seems that he had long lost the hope of having children. His faith is not strong enough to believe that all things are possible for God. Zachariah's response becomes our story every time we doubt that God is really in charge of our life. We may think that we are in control. If we are living a barren life today, a life that is lifeless and meaningless, it does not mean that we should lose hope. Just because we cannot see how new life is possible in our barren condition does not mean that God cannot make new life happen!

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