Finally! It is the word of the day.
Finally we have completed the nine-day novena of Christmas but that is not the true joy of our annual Simbang Gabi tradition. What is most essential is in these nine days of rising early for the novena, we have rediscovered Jesus Christ in ourselves and among others while at the same time recommitted ourselves to Him again as our only fulfillment in life. I hope that in the past nine days we have rediscovered and even brought back somehow to our lives our sense of the sacred that is now fast fading out in our very consumerist society. Through the many religious symbolisms found in our liturgies and readings these Advent season, it is hoped that we have rediscovered God – as well as our sense of the sacred – who is the most meaningful and essential in life.
Finally today also, we find the only male character in St. Luke’s story of the coming of Christmas regaining his stature after being on the distaff side, Zechariah. After disbelieving the good news of (finally) having a son through the angel Gabriel’s annunciation at the Temple when he was forced into silence by becoming mute and deaf, Zechariah was finally able to speak again after declaring his son shall be named John. And his very first words after being silent for nine months were praises to God the Almighty like Mary during the Visitation. Called theBenedictus, Zechariah affirmed and confirmed in himself first the reality and truth of God being present in our lives amid the many twists and turns in life, narrating His reality and fidelity to His promises from the time of the Patriarchs and the Prophets of Israel down to the birth of John who would prepare the Christ. In effect, Zechariah had finally come into a full circle in singing the Benedictus: like his wife Elizabeth and son still in her womb John, St. Luke tells us how Zechariah was also filled with the Holy Spirit at that instance on the naming of John when he prophesied, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel” (Lk.1:68).
Zechariah shows today the fruits of his “forced silence” that had deepened his priesthood that is very evident in the opening line of Benedictus, giving glory to God for His fidelity and mighty acts to save Israel. It is very similar with some of the popular parts of the psalms that every Jew prays. There are three important reasons that Zechariah tells us why God is blessed: “for he has come to his people and set them free, he has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David” (Lk.1:68-69). What is amazing in the Benedictus is that the verbs are in the past tense, of the works of God being done in the past like visiting His people, setting them free or redeeming them by sending Jesus Christ. Like the Magnificat, it is a looking back and a looking forward to more great things God has in store for us. Zechariah is reminding how God has never stopped working wonders for us, speaking and acting through prophets so many years ago even before the coming of Christ who is the fulfillment of all His promises.