ZACHARY AND ELIZABETH, old and childless, were a holy couple, “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.” Both longed to have a son; both prayed often that God would give them a child. And both hoped also for the coming of the long awaited Savior of Israel.
Zachary was a priest of the Jewish religion. On this occasion his office was to burn incense at the golden altar in the temple at Jerusalem. As he went about his duties, an angel appeared to him; and, when Zachary began to fear, the angel said: “Do not be afraid, Zachary, for thy petition has been heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
The son announced by the angel was to be John the Baptist. Of him the angel prophesied: “He shall be great before the Lord; he shall drink no wine or strong drink, and shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel he shall bring back to the Lord their God, and he shall himself go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just; to prepare for the Lord a perfect people.”
Thinking of his and of his wife’s advanced age, Zachary doubted the truth of the angel’s prophecy. “How shall I know this?” he asked. “For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” Thereupon, the angel identified himself: “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to thee and to bring thee this good news.”
For his doubt, Zachary was struck dumb. “Behold thou shalt be dumb,” the angel said, “and unable to speak until the day when these things come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
Zachary, now unable to speak, left the temple, The encounter with the angel Gabriel fresh in his mind, he returned shortly to his home. As the angel had foretold, his wife Elizabeth conceived a child in her old age.
Meditation: Before the unmistakable word of God, spoken through the mouth of Gabriel, Zachary was doubtful. He hesitated to believe that God could give a child even to the old and barren Elizabeth. For that he was struck dumb. The Scriptures are a letter from God to us, His message of hope and His directions for our life. Will we accept them? Are we doubters, like Zachary?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 1-2. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, MA following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM. NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.