Do Not Be Afraid
Malvern Minute

 

December 19, 2017   Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay! Alleluia, alleluia! 

Mark J. Poletunow, Malvern President (mpoletunow@malvernretreat.com)

Click for: Readings for the day (From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (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.”
 

Reflect: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. In today’s Gospel as well as in the first reading from the Book of Judges (chapter 13), we see God’s intervention for two families who were barren. From those families were born John the Baptist and Samson. Both were to serve unique roles in announcing God’s presence among his people, and especially calling people to conversion so that they could be ready to encounter God; so that their hearts and minds could be open to all that God wanted to do in their lives. In the final days of Advent, these biblical characters are a reminder for us that God wants to fill our emptiness with the fullness of life – his life, the life of Jesus. Perhaps we feel week, unworthy, as if our lives are running on empty. Nothing is impossible for God. He desires to renew and remake our lives. He desires to turn our sorrow into joy, our desolation into hope, our restlessness into peace. He wants us to experience the depth of his love for us. Simply, however, he asks that we surrender ourselves to him; trusting that he who is capable of all things will do a great work in our lives. The angel Gabriel said to Zechariah: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.” Our God says to each of us: “Do not be afraid. I am with you!” May our hearts be ready to receive God’s gift of himself to us.

Questions: Does fear interfere with my relationship with God? Can I ask God to take away my fear so that I recognize the mighty ways that he is acting in my life? Can I use these final days of Advent to prepare my heart to receive the gift of Jesus by praying: “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. You take care of everything.”?

Pray: Loving God, nothing is impossible for you. Give me an expectant heart.  Take my hurt, my pain, my listless spirit, my doubt, and my fear and give me a heart full of joy, hope, peace and love – that is ready to proclaim you to the world. I pray this in the powerful and perfect name of Jesus. Amen.                                                                                                             

He who is to come will come and will not delay, and now there will be no fear within our land, for he is our Savior.


ENCOUNTERING DIVINE PHYSICIAN (Gospel of Luke 5: 17-26)

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