There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’
The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him.
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.
Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’
Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.
When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’
For every birthday I had as a child, my grandaunt did two things consistently. First thing was to cook me a bowl of mee sua (rice noodles) and the next thing was to have me pick out some ‘lucky numbers’ for her to go and buy the lottery in the hope of winning some money.
Growing up, it was her belief that in order for us to escape poverty, we needed help from others. She often talked about how her children did not bother to help her (or to be more correct, us) by providing more for us. Now, please do not get me wrong; my grandaunt was an extremely hardworking woman, and she took very good care of me. She truly loved me.
What struck me was how I take on this mindset when I am thinking of God. Often, I find myself thinking this: “Oh, if only God would provide me with a fantastic career, or if this prayer was answered, or if circumstances would turn out the way I want them.” All too often, I end up sitting back and waiting for the Lord to provide.
In both readings today, effort was required of the recipients of good news. In the first reading, Samson’s father, Manoah, received the good news from an angel of the Lord that his wife (who was barren) was to conceive. They were to eat cleanly, and not consume any strong drink. In addition, the child was not to cut his hair. Similarly, in the Gospel, Zechariah too, received good news that his wife Elizabeth would conceive and bear a child, John the Baptist. The child was not to drink wine and consume no strong drink.
The point is, both these readings highlight the fact that we, the people of God, have a part to play in God’s plan. We are not expected to be mere passive recipients of good news. Instead, we are to play an active role. In Isaiah 48:17, we are instructed that our God is the Lord our God, and He directs us in the way we should GO. This clearly means that action is required of us.
In discerning what is required of us, this also means that we need to be consistently plugged into an active relationship with God. We need to be in consistent dialogue with our Lord, listening to His instructions for us.
May we be always open to His messages and that we may find courage and strength to act on this actions required of us.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)
Prayer: We pray that we may be able to hear and discern what You require of us Father. Help us to be obedient children and servants!
Thanksgiving: We praise and thank You for the role You have played in our lives, Father God. We thank You for always being there for us, even if we have been blind to You.