A few things have kept coming to me during my prayer with today’s readings. “Do not be afraid; do not fear” and Joy; praise and glory, rejoice, Emmanuel.
In both readings an angel of the Lord appears announcing the birth of a son. In the Gospel of Luke 1:5-25 the angel says “Do not be afraid, Zechariah”, yet he is fearful, even as he is ministering incense in the temple with the congregation outside praying. Fear is his reaction, disbelief, lack of comprehension, and he questions the angel. Zechariah is then struck mute by Gabriel.
God, his messengers, and Jesus say throughout the bible, ‘Do not be afraid’, 365 times. One time for each day of the Gregorian calendar year. There is Grace in abundance from God, to not fear. I recently heard the acronym, FOMO: the fear of missing out or not being included in an enjoyable activity that others are experiencing. I clearly missed out on its first usage (which dates back to 2004 and is in the dictionary). Because of Zechariah’s fear of Gabriel, FOMO as he did not see the connection when Gabriel says ’your prayers have been heard’, he was muted and subjected to missing out. He was not able to talk to his wife during her unexpected pregnancy. He missed out in so many ways.
Fear is one of the bigger stumbling blocks between me and the Lord. Fear of giving up control (asking for help on a project or in a specific area of my life), not doing or saying the ‘right’ thing. I have to remind myself constantly, that fear keeps me from the embrace and love of God. One of my favorite advent hymns is ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’. Emmanuel means ‘God is with us’. During the darkness in our lives, we need to be reminded that He is, at all times, with us. Listen to the hymn by Casting Crowns or by The Piano Guys. Pray with the lyrics.
Zechariah is unable to speak again until he is asked to name the babe. He names the child ‘John’ which is against tradition (Lk:1-63-67) and extols the greatness of God (Lk 1:68-79). In fact, the Canticle of Zechariah is said daily by all who pray the morning office of the Liturgy of the Hours.
As a Secular Franciscan I am called to live my life according to the The Rule of St. Francis. It states in article 4: ‘The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.’
Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.
I find myself living out the gospel and the responsorial psalm of today (Ps 71:8) ‘My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day.’ Just like Zechariah, I am to let others know that the Lord is with us, in each and every moment of the day. I can proclaim the greatness of the Lord because He has visited us through the Holy Spirit, through the Word, in the Eucharist, in the image of God, and through our neighbors and creation. I need to be a living example of God’s love to the world around me; in all corners and situations. Emmanuel, God is with us!
Michael Card has a beautiful rendition of Emmanuel
Shalom (the peace of God’s kingdom be with you) and Amen!
Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan.