Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
Not many people in our society really give a second thought about a married couple, even one advanced in years, who are without children. But, during Elizabeth’s time, her experience of barrenness was a disgrace before others. She shouldered a great personal burden characteristic of all women who desire to have a child, but experience infertility. It’s particularly important for us to pay attention to how Zechariah and Elizabeth responded to this challenge—they took an unfortunate reality and allowed it to deepen their relationship with the Lord.
Zechariah placed himself in the sanctuary of the Lord to pray; and it was there that he encountered God’s messenger, the Archangel Gabriel. The ensuing exchange and Zechariah’s disbelief left him mute. We can view being struck silent as a form of punishment, but I think God is also preparing Zechariah’s heart in some way. Silence created the ideal condition for Zechariah to enjoy the presence of God and reflect upon the great wonders the Lord was working in his life. God imposed silence for Zechariah’s own good, to help him become a more attentive listener and call forth greater faith. Our own practice of silence not only encourages us to refrain from sinful speech, but it also prepares our hearts to recognize God’s grace at work.
Silence makes us more spiritually aware and it enables us to reflect more completely on God’s action in our lives and in the world. When the time was fulfilled, Zechariah’s mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke. May the words that come forth from our mouths proclaim a similar message of praise of God.
Reflection Question: How can I better foster silence in my life so as to be more attentive to God’s action?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB