Tuesday December 24, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Advent
Reading (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16) Gospel (St. Luke 1:67-79)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear the Canticle of Zechariah, the father of Saint John the Baptist. It is the Gospel reading that the Church places in the mouth of each person who prays the Breviary every single morning. There are only three Gospel canticles: the Benedictus, which we just heard and is prayed every morning; the Magnificat, Our Lady’s hymn to the Lord at the time of the Visitation, which is prayed every evening; and the one called the Nunc Dimittis, which is the song of Simeon, “Now, Lord you can dismiss your servant in peace,” at the time of the Presentation in the Temple, and that is prayed every single night.
In this particular Gospel reading this morning, we hear Zechariah proclaiming what God has done and the way He has fulfilled the prophecies that were promised. We saw earlier in the week the prophecies that were given to Abraham and to David, and now we hear about how these are fulfilled. Zechariah says, “He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of His servant David.” So we have that and then we also have, “This was the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.” Again, we have it right in there – both Abraham and David – how the line is coming down and the fulfillment of all the promises that God had made.
And the promises that are there are oaths. God had sworn an oath, which is something that is mind-boggling anyway – that God would swear an oath – because why would God have to, other than to make absolutely clear to us that this is His word and it will not change. Even if it appears that it is not being fulfilled, it will be, because “God has sworn an oath and He will not change,” as the Psalmist says. That is precisely what has happened. God has made promises. He has sworn an oath that He is going to fulfill His promises, and that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
So with Zechariah now having his tongue loosed and beginning to speak for the first time in nine months, he proclaims the glory of God and shows how all of this was fulfilled. Of course, we recall that when the angel Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah in the temple, he had told him these things but Zechariah did not believe. And so for these nine months, Zechariah was the only one who knew who John the Baptist really was going to be and he could not speak about him. For nine months, he could ponder these things, he could pray about them, he could understand and (obviously with the help of the Holy Spirit) formulate for God a beautiful hymn so that when his mouth was finally opened, the first thing out of his mouth was, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” It is just like Our Lady; the first thing out of her mouth when Elizabeth glorified her was to turn it right around and say, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Now Zechariah blesses God and proclaims the glory of God in the fulfillment of His promises.
Each one of us needs to learn that same lesson: that we need to put God first, that everything He has made promises about will be fulfilled, not only generically or objectively, but subjectively in the lives of each one of us. We need to have that same kind of disposition as Zechariah to glorify God, the same disposition as Our Lady to magnify the Lord. That is the way it needs to be: to have God first at the center of everything, to see all the things of our lives as part of God’s providence, as part of the way that He is preparing the way, setting things up so that all of His promises to us will be fulfilled. We need also to learn from all of this that it will not be fulfilled necessarily the way we assume that it will. We have seen enough times throughout Scripture that one might assume it is going to happen one way and the way it happens is not anything like what they would have thought.
And so we need simply to trust in the promises of the Lord and allow Him to fulfill the promises the way He has chosen to do so, not the way we think it ought to be done. In the meantime, we need not only to keep trusting, but to keep proclaiming His glory; to bless the Lord, the God of Israel; to bless the Holy Trinity, the God whom we worship and adore; because we recognize who He is and we trust His promises. Consequently, as those promises take shape in each of our lives on a daily basis, we need to glorify Him in our words and by our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.