Friday, December 18, 2009


who standest for an ensign of the people,
before whom kings shall shut their mouths,
to whom the nations shall seek:
Come and deliver us
and tarry not.

MASS READINGS: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a; Luke 1:5-25

Today's First Reading from the book of Judges recounts the birth of Samson. His father's name was Manoah and came from Zorah, in the territory of Dan. (Dan was one of the twelve sons of Jacob.) The wife, whose name is not given, is barren - the greatest curse a married woman could suffer in her society. She shares this fate with some other prominent women in the Old Testament - Sara, the mother of Isaac; Rebecca, the mother of Jacob; Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel; and, of course, in today's Gospel, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist.

An angel of the Lord appears to her, saying, "You will conceive and bear a son." From his very conception Samson is to be regarded as a Nazirite, in preparation for his special vocation. In so many ways this episode foreshadows the birth of John the Baptist, of which we read in today’s Gospel, beginning with Zechariah’s encounter with the angel, Gabriel, and his subsequent period of silence to ponder the angel’s promise of John’s birth to his “barren (until then) wife, getting on in years."

Today’s readings emphasise that nothing is impossible to God. He is faithful to his promises. Time and time again in the history of Israel, God had acted in the midst of everyday human life. Time and time again the people had at first failed to recognize his presence and then come to believe him.

It is good for us to remember that Zechariah sees his vision in the course of faithfully carrying out his ordinary tasks. That he is slow to believe is easy to understand. When God breaks through into our ordinary, everyday lives, it can be hard to believe that it is happening. Let us ask the Lord to help us grow in faith, and – as the Church – pass from the barrenness which we know only too well to real fruitfulness that the Lord will be glorified in our time.


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