Archive | November 2015

Zechariah Often Gets A Bad Rap

 

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The father of John the Baptist usually gets only snarky reviews because he dared to ask God for a sign besides hearing from the Archangel Gabriel standing right in front of him.

  1. He probably only got to offer incense in the Temple at evening prayer 1-3 times during his entire life because there were 8,000 priests in Israel at that time. So just being there was special and he was nervous.
  2. The angel appeared to the right of the Altar of Incense and terrified him. Angels are spirit only, but can appear in the form of mankind when necessary – usually a normal man, but something made Zechariah aware that he was more than a man. Hence, the terror.
  3. Gabriel said that his prayers for progeny will be answered, but after 35 years or so of praying, Zechariah could hardly believe his ears. No wonder he had a hard time accepting the good news.
  4. The promised son was ordered to be a Nazarite from birth (Numbers 6:1-21) or one who lives apart, as in holy or set apart to God. He would not be the usual son who would bring forth cherubic grandchildren to delight his father and mother.
  5. In contrast, the Virgin Mary was fifteen or so. It’s relatively easy to believe amazing things at 15. No wonder she was more interested in how things would happen rather than whether or not they would.

God’s “anger” lasts only for a moment and it is remedial, not punitive  –  more like a football coach than an angry tyrant. Hence, at the end of the corrective period, Zechariah composed the glorious canticle in Luke 1: 67-79 which the Church prays again every morning in morning prayer.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

The Angelus – B.O.R.I.N.G!

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When I was a young, self-styled intellectual, I used to think Millet’s painting, The Angelus, quaint, but hardly noteworthy. I was even less interested in the prayer the peasants were dutifully praying at the end of their workday.

Only recently have I paid any attention to the prayer itself. Slowly it has dawned on me that those crafty Catholic priests who taught the illiterate peasants to pray this way three times a day, were actually providing a pithy catechesis with meditative insights into fully living the Christian life by their choice of scripture.

  • Summary of Luke 1:28-35 – The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
  • Luke 1:38 – I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.
  • John 1:14 – And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

This prayer shows all believers how to transform their lives so they can truly be called little Christs. Or as, St. Paul says in Galatians, “and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

Mary, a human being like each of us, became the physical mother of Jesus by hearing and wholeheartedly receiving the Word of God into her life. In a similar manner, when we individually hear and accept the Word of God into our lives, begin to reproduce His life here on earth. No one mistakes any of us for the Messiah, but we gradually adjust our thoughts and actions to resemble Jesus more and more here in this place and time. As we become like Him, we bring His kingdom to life now and show everyone we meet how much God loves them. The more we submit to God, the more like Jesus, we become.

Some humans, the Saints, can even join St. Paul in saying that “for me to live is Christ.” (Galatians 2:20 a) All we have to do is hear the holy truth, totally accept it, ask God to become the absolute boss of our lives, and bit by bit, accomplish our goal of living in the Kingdom of God now.

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.         Matthew 6:33

Or, as one old-fashioned Protestant hymn-prayer puts it:

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Hold o’er my being absolute sway.

Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see

Christ only, always, living in me!”

 

Viva Cristo Rey!

11-22-15

We win! We’ve read the back of the Book and we know what the final score will be! Join us today, as we Catholics celebrate His victory today in a special way – The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.