By Fr. Matthew Keller, C.PP.S.
We all know those people who can tell a good story with a straight face. You believe the story to be true, then you realize the story is fiction. Then they tell you another good story that seems to be real, but you do not believe it, and the story ends up being true. Then they tell you a third story and you are not sure whether to believe the story or not believe the story.
In our scriptures today, we encounter two women who are pregnant, Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with Jesus. Two women who are pregnant who should not be: Elizabeth is advanced in age, well beyond a child-bearing age. And Mary who is young, of child bearing age, but is not married.
The announcements of the coming births of both John and Jesus are made by the Angel Gabriel. And with both announcements, Zechariah and Mary respond with a question, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18), “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man” (Luke 1:34). Because Zechariah questions the angel, because he did not believe the angel, he loses his ability to speak until John is born. Mary is told that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Elizabeth credits Mary with believing the Lord’s message. I think that most of us look to the example of Mary and want to be like Mary. We want to believe the message that the Lord has for us.
But I must admit at times it is easy to be like Zechariah, to question the Lord’s message, to doubt the Lord’s message. Particularly when the message seems to be impossible. Not so much because we do not believe the message, but because we have received messages of hope before and they have proven not to be true and have left us disappointed. Prior to the angel’s announcement to Zechariah about the coming birth of John, I wonder how many times he got a message of hope that Elizabeth would conceive a child, but never did?
It is said that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Throughout this Advent we have heard the message that the Lord is coming. In our Scriptures today, we hear this message, “You Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:1). This message may sound too good to be true, or the timing of Lord’s return is so delayed that we may question when is the Lord coming. Is the Lord really coming, or did the Lord change his mind about coming? Like Mary, we know that this is more than too good to be true. It is true and we believe and know that Lord is coming. It is more than a made-up story, it is a true story, it is a fact that the Lord is coming. The Lord is coming like a long-expected, delayed guest. As we journey in these last days of Advent, may we be ready, may we live in such way that reflects that we know he is coming soon.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of the Downtown Dayton Catholic Parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.