I do not know about you, but I have to confess that there are times that I am a lot more like Zechariah than the Blessed Mother. This is nothing new. The nation of Israel constantly wanted signs from Jesus the very Word of God Himself in order to believe in Him. Even when Jesus worked many miracles and signs, it was not enough, because the leaders of the nation decided to condemn Him for doing good works on the Sabbath rather than believe in either His word or the signs He worked in God’s name.
What about us today? I think many times we imitate Zechariah or even worse, we imitate the Pharisees. We ask God for special signs and portents about what we should do in life while we treat the greatest miracle the Mass as something ordinary. Do we really believe the Word of God as spoken through the priest at the time of the consecration when he says: “This is my body…. This is my blood”? The general irreverence at Mass that we all see and sometimes participate in ourselves seems to indicate that we do not truly believe the Word of the Lord.
In addition, do we really believe what Jesus says through the words of the priest in the Confessional when he says, “I absolve you of all your sins”? The low turnout for confession seems to indicate that we do not believe God’s word in this, either.
A Question or a Doubt?
The first example is that of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. When the angel Gabriel announced to him that he was to have a son who would be called to prepare God’s people for the Messiah, here is Zechariah’s reaction: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Lk 1:18).
On the surface, this response does not seem to be all that different from the Blessed Mother’s reaction to Gabriel’s announcement to her that she was to conceive the very Son of God. Notice what our Blessed Mother said in response to the news: “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (Lk 1:34).
However, there must have been a real difference in what either of them truly believed when they heard the Word of God from the angel Gabriel. For the angel Gabriel said to Zechariah, “And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time” (Lk 1:20).
Evidently, our Blessed Mother was able to accept the Word of the Lord as truth and was willing to submit her will to the will of the Lord. She says to the angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
Let’s Become Blessed Mother Catholics
The temptation for all of us at times is to despair. We are tempted to despair at our own lack of faith in God’s word and to despair when we see faith lacking in others. However, the great thing about being Catholic is that our Lord gives us abundant graces to overcome our own lack of faith.
Let’s look at the example of Zechariah himself. While the angel Gabriel made him keep silent until the day his son was born (something for which Elizabeth was probably very grateful), notice what happened when John the Baptist was born: “And immediately [Zechariah’s] mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God” (Lk 1:64).
To this day Zechariah’s prayer of praise and blessing to the Lord is included in the Church’s prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours. From Zechariah’s initial lack of faith, God’s graces overflowed and overwhelmed Zechariah.
The same thing can and does happen to us. How many times have we doubted the truthfulness of God’s word and even doubted the love of God for us, only to be overwhelmed by some event in our lives that indicates God’s love for us? Usually, this event is something that is very personal to us. It may be the return of someone we love to the faith after years of praying for a reconversion. It may be finding a job or getting our health back. These are good things, and God does answer these types of prayers.
However, the greatest sign that God loves us and comes to be with us is not these things. The greatest sign happens every Sunday at Mass. It is here that we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus. This is not all that different from what happened to our Blessed Mother who received our Lord in a very special way at the Annunciation. The intriguing thing is what our Blessed Mother did after she received our Lord Jesus. She did not doubt what the angel told her, but she immediately went and served others and took Jesus to Elizabeth.
What about us? Are we following the example of our Blessed Mother, and after receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament serving others in our homes, communities, workplaces, and families?
It is through receiving and believing the very Word of God in the Blessed Sacrament that all of us can become Blessed Mother Catholics and redeemed Zechariah Catholics. The next time we attend Mass, let us pray prior to Mass the prayer, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Then the Lord will loosen our tongues to praise Him as He did Zechariah's. And then after receiving our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord will give us the grace to serve others, to be faithful to our calling in life, just as He did our Blessed Mother.
As this new year begins, we will discover that God’s Word is enough for us.
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Jeffery M. Schwehm is a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses' Headquarters Staff in Brooklyn, New York and a former Lutheran. He is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Kohler, Wisconsin. He is also the President of the Fellowship of Catholic Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (www.catholicxjw.com), a Catholic apostolate to assist Jehovah’s Witnesses into the Catholic Church.