Gospel: Lk 1:5-25
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.
Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.
But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth.
This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”
Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them.
When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant. For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is his time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”
Both readings used in today’s liturgy narrate an angelic annunciation about the birth of a son. In the first annunciation scene, an anonymous angel tells an equally anonymous sterile woman that she will bear a son. She believes this and tells her husband about it, and apparently he believes it too. In the second annunciation scene, the angel Gabriel tells the old priest Zechariah that his old sterile wife will bear a son, despite her age. But Zechariah does not believe this, even though this good news is delivered by no less than an angel. He asks the angel: “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly too.” In Gabriel’s answer we can detect a trace of impatience. He presents Zechariah with his full credentials: “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.” We can almost hear Gabriel add under his breath “You idiot!”
Some Christians are natural skeptics. Skepticism is good to a certain point. But we must reach a point when, after having expressed all our doubts and reservations, we finally take the leap of faith.