Thursday, December 24, 2009


Welcome to our last Mass of the Novena in preparation for Christmas! A good number of us have persevered throughout the nine days, while others have joined the big group once again after a certain interval.

The Lord welcomes us all with fatherly love, even as He expects that we make a final effort to intensify our immediate preparation to welcome Jesus in our hearts and in our families.

On this last day of the Novena let us extend our concern and love to the immense family of mankind, especially those who find themselves immersed in the darkness of suffering caused by wars, natural disasters or sickness, or separation from their dear ones.

Together with our personal needs, let us present to the Lord also the needs and aspirations of all people of goodwill. May His light and peace come to all mankind.

Zechariah, the father of John, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.

Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”


Zechariah had lived his life with the unfulfilled hope of enjoying the blessing of a large family like the majority of the Jews. But, as he was ever more advancing in age, he saw himself and his barren wife Elizabeth “condemned” to spend his last years of life in loneliness and neglect. Little did Zechariah know that all was part of a wise and wider plan.

His experience of a divine revelation in the Temple had done nothing to improve his disposition. If anything, it had made things worse, especially when he found himself unable to speak and communicate in a normal manner.

Things had begun to change for the better with the visit of Mary, the young in-law from Nazareth who had come to visit with his wife Elizabeth. Her three-months’ stay with them had a tremendous impact on Zechariah. Although unable to speak, he benefited a lot from the presence and the words of Mary, and especially from learning that she was carrying the long-awaited Messiah.

Things were finally beginning to fall in place in the confused mind of the old man. And when finally he was able to hold in his arms his newborn child and got the chance to name him John, Zechariah’s happiness grew so full as to shatter even the last impediment that had kept him isolated. Zechariah became a new man – a man totally renewed in his mind and in his heart.

Overcoming his dumbness, he burst into a song of praise that expressed also the feelings of all those present. Having seen fulfilled two of the promises made by the angel in the temple – the conception and birth of a son from his barren wife, in spite of the old age of both, as well as his ability to speak – he now was able to look with firm hope to the fulfillment of the other promises made by God through the prophets along the centuries.

Zechariah had personally experienced that nothing is impossible to God. He felt so sure that all the promises of old concerning the Messiah would come true that he sang of their fulfillment using the past tense:

“He has come to His people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of His servant David.”
(See today’s Gospel.)

Clearly, Zechariah is not speaking here of his newborn baby boy, but of the One whose way his son, John, will prepare – the Messiah of God. He, and none other, is the one who sets God’s people free. He is the Savior of all mankind, the one who fulfills God’s promise to Abraham. He is “the dawn from on high who will break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death” and will “guide our feet into the way of peace.”

On the eve of the commemoration of the fulfillment of these promises, we should learn from Zechariah to trust God in Whose hands are the destinies of all peoples and Who never lets down those who put their faith in Him.