Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary # 196, Dec. 19th. Judges 13:2-7, 24-25. Psalm
71:3-4,5-6.16-17. Luke 1:5-25.
We are enjoying the readings from the Infancy Narratives of Luke and
Matthew. This helps us in appreciating the great historical event of the
birth of Christ in Bethlehem and the events that precede his birth as well
as those that immediately follow it. This is the only authentic historical
record of those early years of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and are the primary
source for all later theological writings about it as well as those that
are more imaginative and sometimes ridiculous; they are also the foundation
for the major teachings about Mary in our Church–her virgin birth, her
divine motherhood, her perpetual virginity. The Immaculate Conception and
the Assumption are also profound reflections on the Scriptures in the light
of faith and in the guided teaching of the Church through the Holy Spirit.
Those these are mysteries of the faith they do have a foundation in reality
and are based on the Scriptures.
We enter the Infancy Narrative of Luke without his marvelous periodic
sentence that shows his own interest in handing on what he has received and
doing that with as much accuracy as is possible for this inspired writer.
Cardinal John Henry Newman was famous for long descriptive periodic
sentences. In the first four lines of Luke, the Evangelist surpasses the
cardinal in this literary masterpiece. Luke is considered to be a literary
artist, a theologian and a divinely inspired Evangelist. We are blessed by
his writings and especially by his narrative in the first two chapters
which are a display window for the rest of the Gospel in its themes and its
beauty of giving us the kindest portrait of Jesus among the Evangelists.
Luke is the one who leads us to Mary as we approach the last week of
Our reading for today is the annunciation of the conception and birth of
John the Baptist to his father who is a priest serving his duty in the
Temple of Jerusalem at the hour of incense and prayer. The people outside
of the Holy of Holies and the sanctuary are waiting for him. He does not
appear for quite some time because of the vision he has from the Angel
Gabriel who stands before God and now at the right side of the altar. The
text shows us that unlike the wife of Manoah in the first reading,
Zechariah is incredulous and hesitates in accepting the announcement of
Gabriel–an angel that one should not contend with because Gabriel is the
strength of God as his names indicates. The woman of Zorah was not given
the name of the angel for she had reverential fear and did not dare to ask
his name reserved only for God or God’s given messenger to give. The
contrast of the mother of Samson with Zechariah is wisely chosen for our
liturgy and helps us to see that there are such Annunciations in both the
Old Testament and the New Testament on a given number of times. Zechariah
should have known better that to be so hesitant and doubtful. For that
reason he is mute till the time he and his wife Elizabeth name him John.
He thus had time to ponder over the mystery while seeing the pregnancy of
Elizabeth as a confirmation of the Angel’s words. He resisted a surprise
grace of God, but God had mercy upon him and released his tongue once John
was named. He then returns to his true self and righteousness in the sight
of God while breaking forth into the beautiful Benedictus that we use for
Morning Prayer. It now matches the Magnificat of Mary and has many similar
themes but focused on the role that his son John will have in salvation
During this season of Advent this narrative takes on the great expectation
of Elizabeth who is the firm believer in this story as we will see in her
meeting with her relative who is pregnant with Jesus the Messiah. Her
husband agrees with the name given by her to the child and writes it on a
tablet saying “John is his name.” We admire Elizabeth who recognizes in
Mary the work of the Spirit just as Elizabeth experienced the same work of
the Spirit withiin her body. The meeting of the two women is one of the
most beautiful scenes in the Bible and has inspired great artists to give
us some of the most compelling paintings of the warmth and love of the two
women for each other and for what God has done within them. It rightfully
is the second joyous mystery of the rosary and Elizabeth is one of the
first to believe in the Incarnation that is to ensue.
In his Infancy Narrative all those who are open to the Holy Spirit
experience this great joy of the births. We see this in Elizabeth and her
husband Zechariah; then in Simeon and Anna; then the shepherds, and, of
course, in Mary and Joseph. Advent is thus a work of the Spirit and we do
well to be mindful of the Spirit in our prayer, our reflections, and our
celebrations in the liturgy.
There is also consolation in the fact that the youthful virgin-mother is
seen in relationship to the elderly and once barren woman Elizabeth. Luke
paints his portraits with great grace and superabundant joy. Amen.