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Liturgical day: Weekdays of Advent: December 19th

1st Reading (Judg 13:2-7.24-25a): There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children. An angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, «Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean. As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines».

The woman went and told her husband, «A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed. I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son. So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death’». The woman bore a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up and the Lord blessed him; the Spirit of the Lord stirred him.
Responsorial Psalm: 70
R/. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.

For you are my hope, o Lord; my trust, o God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother's womb you are my strength.

I will treat of the mighty works of the Lord; o God, I will tell of your singular justice. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Verscicle before the Gospel (---): Alleluia. O Root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all his people: come to save us without delay! Alleluia.

Gospel text (Lc 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».

«Don't be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son»

Fr. Ignasi FUSTER i Camp
(La Llagosta, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, the angel Gabriel announces the “supernatural” birth of John the Baptist, the man who will prepare the mission of the Messiah to the priest Zechariah. God, in His loving providence, prepares Jesus' birth along with John's. Isabel's sterility is not a problem. God wants to perform such a miracle because of His love for us, his creatures.

But Zechariah, on this occasion, does not show much supernatural faith: «How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too» (Lk 1:18). He has an excessively human way of looking at things. He lacks trust in God's plans, which are always bigger than ours: in this case, nothing more than the Incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of mankind! The angel finds an “absent-minded” Zechariah, slow in Godly matters, a bit “off the air”.

With Christmas being.only a few days away, may the angel of the Lord find us ready, just as Mary was. It is necessary that we try to keep ourselves in the presence of God during the day, to intensify our love for Jesus Christ in our prayer, to receive Holy Communion with devotion: because Jesus is going to be born and come to us! We should have a supernatural outlook about all our affairs. We need such a vision in our professional work, in our studies, in our apostolate, even in our daily setbacks. Nothing escapes divine providence! With the certainty and joy of knowing that we are cooperating with the angels and the Lord in the loving, salvational plans of God.