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December 19th – Advent
Readings: Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a; Lk 1:5-25
Reading 1 (Jgs. 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.
Gospel (Lk 1:5-25):
In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.
Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.
After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M, Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Hope in despair
Advent is the season of hope and of the fulfillment of promises: What God promised with our forefathers were fulfilled and prophets’ prediction were happened. The waiting time often leads people to tiredness and despair; but God has His plan and time. One certain thing is that what God promised, it shall happen; when shall it happen, nobody knows.
Two readings today reported the birthdays of two old parents’ children who couldn’t give birth according to natural cycle. They were completely hopeless, but God blessed them with children. In the first reading, The Book of Judges reported the birth of Sampson, the warrior. In the second reading, the evangelist Luke reported the birth of John Baptist. The purposes of both authors were to show the truth: “nothing is impossible to God.” These hopes lead people to greater and even more wonderful hope, that is: the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. He comes to live with us in order to reveal His Father’s will to us, to liberate us from being slavery for sins, and to bring us to his Father’s eternal home.
1/ Reading I: The birthday of the warrior Sampson.
1.1/ The good news was announced to the barren parent:
(1) The author of the Book of Judges briefly described the special birth of Sampson as following: “There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son.”
(2) The child Sampson was sanctified from his mother’s womb: The angel of the Lord said to her: “Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
Nazarite is a person who is spared and sanctified for God; the procedure was mentioned in the Book of Number 6:2-21. Though Scripture didn’t mention any Nazarite before Sampson; but this procedure existed before Moses. The Nazarite’s vow contains three things: First, he can’t drink wine and strong drink. Secondly, he can’t have a haircut during his vowed period. Lastly, he can’t make a contact with dead body. When the vowed period is ended, he must come to temple to offer his offering as described by priests. Then, he must cut his hair and throw it into fire when the priest is offering the reconciliated offering.
(3) The mother’s reaction: Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; I did not ask him whence he was, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, `Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son; so then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.'”
1.2/ The good news is fulfilled: “The woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the boy grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahanehdan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.” Sampson grew up with mighty strength and he liberated the Israelites from Philistines’ oppression.
2/ Gospel: John Baptist’s birthday
The Gospel according to Luke briefly reported about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation as follows: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.”
2.1/ The good news is announced to barren parent:
(1) To Zechariah: “Now while Zechariah was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.””
(2) The child, John Baptist is chosen and sanctified right from his mother’s womb: The angel Gabriel said: “For he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” John Baptist’s mission was clearly announced by the angel: “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
(3) Zechariah’s reaction: Since he thought he can’t have a child according to natural law, he asked the angel: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.””
2.2/ The good news was fulfilled: “When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, “Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.””
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God has His plan and time. We can only fathom part of His plan through the revelation of Christ and His messengers.
– God let us be born into the world and gave us a mission to accomplish according to His plan. We must fulfill the mission He gave to us.
– To God, everything is possible. We should completely put our trust in God.