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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Zechariah's Silence

"But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words." Lk 1:20

In the ancient world of Israel, barrenness was a "disability, an unspeakable burden for women and a shame inducing cloud for men. Without a child, a woman was thought not to have an identity. Only children, especially males, would give her a voice and a place among others who gave birth.

On the other hand, men were rarely blamed for infertility, and the Talmud reminds men that if, after ten years, their wives could not bear children, they must divorce them in order to fulfill the law which commands men "to be fruitful and multiply."

No wonder Gabriel seems surprised after assuring Zechariah that Elizabeth would  bear a child in her old age. Sharp tongued, Gabriel rebukes Zechariah for not believing that God is about to lift his burden, and "punishes" him. Zechariah will not be able to speak until John the Baptist is born, and then only after he accepts God's name for the child.

It is difficult, especially when one has lived for a long time with a "disgrace," to believe that God will intervene. Most of us have prayed to have our burdens lifted without success and wonder whether our prayer is pure enough for God to hear. When our darkness deepens, we even wonder if God is listening at all. The key, of course, is to accept life as it unfolds and live with unanswerable questions, but this is often easier said than done.

Today, ask for the gift of speechlessness in the face of the unknown and undecipherable.

How you manage your darkness?


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