Today’s Gospel: Luke 1:5-25
Poor Zechariah. He has an honest to goodness, face-to-face encounter with an angel—not just any angel, mind you, but one of the greats—Archangel Gabriel himself. He has an encounter that most of us would envy, and he blows it.
Zechariah makes a simple mistake we all make. It’s just that most of us don’t make it in the presence of one of God’s messengers.
When Gabriel tells Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, will have a child, he responds, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
Because he responded in this way, Zechariah was struck mute until all that Gabriel told him had come to pass.
Zechariah’s most obvious mistake was to doubt God’s message. The more subtle mistake was attempting to limit God’s power to what human experience can explain. I’m old. My wife is old. How’s this going to work? This was the logic he seemed to apply to Gabriel’s message.
On the surface, his response to Gabriel seems logical, but how logical was it really? Seriously. God can have an angel magically appear before you, strike you mute, and somehow the biology of geriatric pregnancy is going to be a problem? What was he thinking?
We all employ Zechariah’s faulty logic from time to time. We try to fit God into the smallness of our own minds. That’s why we are slow to recognize and acknowledge miracles, why we limit our belief in the power of prayer, and worst of all, underestimate God’s willingness to forgive.
Just today, my wife and I were in our old neighborhood and ran into the woman who lived across the street from us our last few years there. She called us over and asked us to tour her back yard. She had spent much of the summer constructing a garden path out of marble and granite remnants discarded by a local contractor.
Our conversation turned to the overall beauty of her garden. When she moved in three years ago, the yard was dead and brown. The trees, shrubs and flowers that she planted had flourished. The yard was now an oasis.
“This is how I know God exists,” she told us, “I know I didn’t accomplish this on my own.” I found her comment interesting. She isn’t a Christian, or religious in any traditional sense, but she had this moment of grace, a flash of recognition. Through this reflection on her garden, she now knows that God is at work in the world and thus in her life.
Most of us will never have an angel appear before us, or experience an apparition or any sort. If we reflect, we may realize, however, that God has been speaking to us in a way that is just as real as what Zechariah experienced.
I know that, as I look back on my life, there were a number of times that God was speaking to me or intervening on my behalf. Most of the time, I wasn’t paying attention. Fortunately, like Gabriel, God is persistent.
My neighbor came to the realization that God exists because of her garden. But this didn’t happen until she completed her garden path. It was built of stones rejected by a builder. Is there a message there?
God, let me be not afraid when you speak. Let me act upon your word and believe in your power and might.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Kirk Whitney