The Gospel reading from the Mass for December 23 is Luke 1:57-66.

After the Annunciation at which Mary gave her fiat to be the Mother of God and heard of the miraculous conception of her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth who was six months pregnant, Mary (and perhaps Joseph) made the journey to the hill country of Judea to be with Elizabeth. Mary, the “handmaiden of the Lord” remained with the elderly Elizabeth for three months to help in the final trimester and probably to assist in the birth of John the Baptist; it is uncertain if Mary (and Joseph) were present at John’s circumcision.

Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy (she had been barren and was past child-bearing age) and the prominent Zechariah’s strange muteness (caused by his disbelief; Luke 1:20) attracted great interest; when John was born, all the neighbors rejoiced.

When John was to be circumcised on the 8th day, Elizabeth, who had been informed of the name of the child by the mute Zechariah’s gestures, speaks for the Zechariah, saying “…he shall be called John” (Hebrew, meaning “God is gracious”).  Skeptical and perhaps surprised that Elizabeth has spoken for Zechariah (it was the father who speaks during the circumcision rite for their sons), those present are astonished when Zechariah confirms by writing John’s name. Immediately, Zechariah miraculously regains his speech and praises God, causing great fear among the neighbors. Even though still a newborn, John causes great commotion throughout the hill country as people wonder, “What then will this child be?”

Awed by Jesus ChristPerson of the Trinity, Christ causes the miraculous conceptions of both Mary and Elizabeth. Son of Man, Christ is likely present in Mary’s womb at the birth of John the Baptist. Divine Judge, Christ both allows the muting and un-muting of Zechariah.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Salvation History is full of unexpected and mysterious connections. Consider that Mary assists Elizabeth with the birth of her son John the Baptist and that John grows up to assist Mary’s Son by announcing Christ’s public ministry (Luke 3).

2) In contrast to the heroic faith and patience of Elizabeth and Zechariah who waited a lifetime to miraculously conceive their son John the Baptist, men today demand instant gratification (Video on demand, fast food, same-day delivery, instant information). During Advent, reflect upon the Virtue of Patience (CCC  227, 736, 1466, 1832, 2104, 2219, 2522, 2533, 2613, 2668, 2772) and ask Christ to help you grow in faith and humble patience for His will to be done in your life.

3) While the consequences for doubt in God in every day life are less obvious than the muting of Zechariah, every man bears the loss of God’s grace for doubt/disbelief. During Advent, reflect on the Doubt (CCC 157, 215, 506, 644, 1381, 2088-2089, 2119, 2610, 2753) and pray for Christ to help you grow in belief and accept God’s grace in all aspects of your life.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Virgin Mary

Virtue of the Day – Hope

Corporal Work of Mercy – To bury the dead

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To pray for the living and the dead