Thursday, December 24, 2009

Prayers today: The appointed time has come; God has sent his Son into the world. Gal 4:4

Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to your people who trust in your love. By your coming, raise us to the joy of your kingdom, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Adele

St. Adele, Widow. A daughter of King Dagobert II of Germany, St. Adele became a nun upon the death of her husband, making provisions for her son, the future father of St. Gregory of Utrecht. She founded a convent at Palatiolum near Trier and became its first Abbess, ruling with holiness, prudence, and compassion. St. Adele seems to have been among the disciples of St. Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, and a letter in his correspondence is addressed to her. After a devout life filled with good works and communion with God, she passed on to her heavenly reward in 730.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (1.67-79)

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Zechariah’s Prophecy
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Every Sunday, following the readings from Scripture and the homily, we proclaim together the Creed — the Nicene Creed. During that Creed we profess our faith in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son. We state that he has spoken through the prophets. In the New Testament also the Holy Spirit is shown as speaking through the prophets — the prophet par excellence, the Prophet long predicted, being Christ himself. He spoke through John the Baptist. He spoke through Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, the parents of John. At Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1: 41-42) we read that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and in a loud voice spoke of Mary and the child in her womb. In our Gospel today, it is her husband Zechariah who is filled with the Holy Spirit and who prophesies. Let us consider his inspired words, for they speak of God. All praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel. He has come to his people to redeem them. This, I would propose, is one of the distinctive features of Yahweh among the high gods of mankind’s religions. Yahweh does not simply remain in the heights and leave contacts with those below to lesser spirits. He himself comes to his chosen people. He redeems them from their enemies and from the hand of all who hate them. He comes to show mercy, to rescue, and to enable his people to serve him in holiness. He is a holy God and all-powerful. His power is shown in his mercy and in his intent to make holiness flourish among his people. He is the God of the holy covenant and of the oath he swore to their father Abraham, the God of his servant David, the God of the prophets, the God of his people. Thus the prophecy of Zechariah confirms the teaching of the Old Testament about the action of God in choosing, guiding and preparing his people for the salvation soon to come. It also announces the arrival of John as “a prophet of the Most High.” He, John, will prepare the way of the Lord, and the people will know the promised salvation from their sins. He will herald the rising sun from heaven.

The prophecy of Zechariah is replete with allusions to the God of the Old Testament, while pointing with more or less clarity to the blessings of the New. Especially notable is the announcement that the salvation “from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” will have a specific sense. It will above all entail a “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” Sin is the “darkness” and “the shadow of death” in which the people are “living”. Sin is revealed in Zechariah’s prophecy to be a darkness and a shadow of death, and God is coming to rescue his people from it. This divine visitation will be an act of his “tender mercy” for his people. In the Gospel of St Matthew, the angel informs Joseph in a dream that the child to be born of Mary, his betrothed, “will save his people from their sins.” In the Gospel of St Luke, the Holy Spirit reveals through the prophecy of Zechariah that the salvation soon to come will be a salvation through the forgiveness of sin. Sin is the evil from which God’s people will be liberated. It is for this, that John his son shall be a prophet of the Most High. He will prepare the people for the rising sun coming from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death. To be noticed here is that in this prophecy there is no mention of the universal scope of the redemption to come. It is a redemption for God’s chosen people — and this perhaps reflects the specific mission which the Messiah would have, namely to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. In his reply to the importunate Canaanite woman, our Lord said that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He himself did not undertake a mission to the Gentile world. This task he would entrust to his Church, that they go to the whole world and make disciples of all the nations — and he promised to be with them to the end. Much of this is contained in seed in the inspired prophecy of Zechariah, the father of the Forerunner.

The eve of Christmas is the moment to be filled with the thought of what is to come. Christ is coming. His coming was prophesied. He came. He remains with us in his body the Church and he will come again. He came to save us from our enemies, the greatest of which is the sin that lies deep within each of us and which at the same time is spread throughout the world. It is the sin of every man and the sin of the world. He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. Let us take our stand with him and receive from him the blessings of heaven.

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