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Dare to Believe

Living a life of faith is a daring adventure not for the faint of heart, as God invites us to believe the unbelievable and expect the unexpected.

Rich HarterGood News All the Way

A blog by Rich Harter
Director of Evangelization
Archdiocese of Milwaukee

 

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute. Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.” (Luke 1:5-25)

Living a life of faith is a daring adventure. It is a journey not for the faint of heart because God invites us to believe the unbelievable and expect the unexpected. God is taking us to places we would rather not go, turning our worldview upside down, and daring us to trust in Good News that seems way too good. These truths come into sharp focus in the lives of Elizabeth and Zechariah.

These parents of John the Baptist are already holy and righteous, but God has even bigger plans for them! Despite being barren and elderly, they receive the ridiculous Good News that their long-suffering prayers will be answered through the birth of a son. Like most of us, Zechariah’s faith is not that daring. Not having the faith vocabulary for this unbelievable promise, he is symbolically struck speechless.

As always happens, God has the last word. The promise of Gabriel is fulfilled and, after some days, Elizabeth becomes pregnant. This passage poignantly presents the timeless central themes of God’s Good News: God has unbelievable plans for us, God visits us at unexpected times in unexpected ways, God answers even the most hopeless prayers eventually, and God always fulfills what is promised.

Dare to believe!

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