The priest Zachariah goes into the temple bearing incense to worship the Lord , “In the days of King Herod”. An angel appears next to the altar of incense and says to him. “Your prayer has been heard,..Your wife will bear you a son.”
Surely, the old priest was no longer praying for a son. Childbearing was over for his wife and himself. The promise of new life was long gone; there’s no hope for a child.
But the angel promises a child “great in the eyes of the Lord” to be called John, who will more than fulfill their hopes, turning “many of the children of Israel to their God.”
The old priest doubts and is punished with silence. He won’t speak until after the child is born. Then he speaks again, as he announces to those at his birth that “his name is John.”
You lose your voice when you lose hope in God’s promises. You get it back when you believe. When John is born, Zechariah sings a song of praise at God’s unexpected gift.
The Communion Prayer for today’s Mass says: “As we give thanks, almighty God, for these gifts you have bestowed, graciously arouse in us, we pray, the desire for those yet to come.”
Never doubt the gifts God wants to give, Zechariah tells us. Doubt silences us. God’s gifts give us a voice.
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!