4th Week of Advent
1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24
Thus says the Lord GOD: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in the days of old, as in years gone by. Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, Before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day, To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the land with doom.
Gospel: Lk 1:57-66
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
STANDING BEFORE THE LORD: The Lord God can be compared to a refiner. A refiner has fire that refines metal of their impurities. Only those who are ready and willing to be purified of their sins by the Lord can stand before him (Mal 3:2). The birth of John the Baptist is the beginning of the fulfilling of the prophecy of Malachi. The circumstances of his birth, and the miracle of Zechariah speech, all point to one direction, that this is the prophet of God: “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him” (Luke 1:66). As the solemnity of the Nativity of Jesus nears, God wishes to purify us, so that we may be ready to encounter Jesus. Just as God sent John the Baptist in order to prepare humanity to receive his Son, we are called to turn to God and be purified by him.
Prayer: Purify me Lord so that I may enjoy being in your presence.
BREAK THE SILENCE: Johann Baptist Metz is known as a theologian of compassion. He broke the silence of the German Catholics to speak and think about the Jews who were killed in Auschwitz concentration camp. In the Old Testament, after Prophet Malachi, for 400 years there were no prophets. God seemed to be in a silence that ended with the birth of John the Baptist; the mouth of Zechariah was opened. This means that even in silence, “God remembered”, “he was gracious and merciful”. People wondered, who would this child be? The answer to this question was that he was, “the voice which would cry out in the desert” (John 1:23). This voice of God was made known during the rite of purification. Through baptism, every Christian is called to speak up for people who cannot speak (Proverb 31,8).
PRAYER: Lord, open my tongue to comfort the weak and to defend the poor.
GOD’S GIFT, GIFT- WRAPPED: The offering of Judah and Jerusalem become pleasing to God only after a period of Purification (Mal 3: 4). For the descendants of Levi it is to come through a test by fire. God has His messenger arranged to carry out this trial. This messenger of God, this herald is announced well in advance. And the one intended to do that must be aptly named, thought Zechariah and Elizabeth. For them this child is to be named John, “God is gracious”, however shocking that might be for their friends and neighbors. John’s christening chanced a miracle for his father, it was a fulfilling experience for Zechariah. Every child comes with the news that God still loves the world, that is, God is not yet disappointed with people. And every child is a bundle of possibilities. Let us conduct ourselves, engage with the children with a wow! “What, then will this child become” (Lk 1:66). Sure, God’s Hand is a protective cover over them.
JOHN IS HIS NAME: As we move towards the birthday of Jesus, the gospel of today presents us with another birthday – of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah. The birth of John the Baptist pre-empts the birth of Jesus. For one, even the birth of John was a miraculous birth. In his birth, the words of the angel to Mary comes true: nothing is impossible for God. Yes, the Lord has been gracious – that is the meaning of John. When Zechariah and Elizabeth recognize that the Lord has been gracious, Zechariah begins to speak, and the people wonder, “What, then, will this child be?” He is going to be the forerunner of the Messiah not only in his birth but in his mission as well; to prepare the way for the Lord.