Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
Hearing the message of Gabriel, Zachariah responds, "How shall I know this?" and he is punished with silence. Mary, on the other hand responds, "“How can this be?" and is told, "“The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."
It doesn't seem very fair. Perhaps the Archangel Gabriel is a moody angel. Maybe, because his favorite color is blue, he was nicer to Mary than to Zachariah.
Probably not. So what is going on? Given the context, Zachariah, when faced with an impossible promise, doesn't think God can or will do it. Mary, on the other hand, simply wants direction. She's saying "What must I do to fulfill your will?" She trusts, but she is looking for direction.
Zachariah is older, perhaps worn down by life. He and his wife have desired a child for many years, yet they have been unable to conceive. Years of disappointment have lead him to building up walls between him and God. We often do the same thing. We lose hope, and as a defense, we embrace pessimism. Its easier to control and hold on to pessimism than embrace hope. "I know this is bad and I know this is always going to be bad, and if you think otherwise, then you are the fool, not me." Behind despair and pessimism, there is always fear and the desire to control. Even when an angel shows up to reveal to him a great promise, Zachariah is too afraid to embrace hope. We can almost here him say, "How shall I know this? All I've known is disappointment. I know how to live with that, I don't know how to live with hope."
The angel forces Zachariah into a silent retreat. Now he has to examine his heart and mediate on the words of the angel. This will eventually bear great fruit when Zachariah proclaims, "Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel; He has come to His people and set them free!"
God follows through on all his promises. The Theological Virtue of hope isn't a wishy-washy optimism. Its something we can trust, because it comes from God. We don't know how or when the promises of God will ultimately be fulfilled, but we do know they will be. After all, the God who sends his only begotten son to die on the cross for us will not withhold any blessing or grace we need to enter into eternal life.
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."84 "The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." CCC 1817
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
Are you pessimistic and controlling or hopeful and trusting in God's will? Are you more like Mary or Zachariah?
What are you hopeful for this Advent season?
In what ways do you need to grow in the virtue of hope? What are you trying to control instead of trusting in God's promises?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"I trust in you."
"You are my hope."
"Lead me, Lord."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Today, really take your time in prayer to evaluate if you react to God and His promises more like Zachariah or Mary. Even if you struggle with relinquishing control and hoping in God, let these words of Zachariah soak into your heart: "Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel; He has come to His people and set them free!" Let his conversion from doubt to hope and trust be your model, especially for the remainder of the Advent. Ask God for the grace to grow in the virtue of hope.
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Today’s Prayer was prepared by Fr. Anthony Sciarappa who was ordained in 2016 and is a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
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