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Faith and Waiting

First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver
that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.
Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the LORD,
as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Lo, I will send you
Elijah, the prophet,
Before the day of the LORD comes,
the great and terrible day,
To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,
and the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike
the land with doom.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5AB, 8-9, 10 AND 14

R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.
R. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.

Gospel: Luke 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

NAB

dec 23

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
Teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
For you are God my savior.
Ps. 25: 4-5

If you were to open my Bible to Psalm 25 you would see a well-read page. Tattered and wrinkled, marked up with different colors of ink and highlighter from using these words over the years to cry out to God in times of uncertainty. Teach me your paths! Guide me!

I remember praying these words as a teenager trying to decide which college to attend. Then again as a young woman discerning marriage, and entering the Catholic Church. After settling into married life I used these words during a two year period of infertility, wondering if God’s plan for my life included motherhood, or if He was calling me to something else.

During each of these epochs in my life I felt like God’s plan for me was completely hidden, no matter how hard I sought it. At times I had to advance even though I had no idea where I was going. And as hard as that was, I know it was during those times of uncertainty that I was closest to God, because of how fervently I was seeking Him.

In today’s First Reading we hear a prophesy, and in the Gospel, the fulfillment: Saint John the Baptist, the messenger sent to prepare the way of the long-awaited Savior. But the person I want to focus on is Zechariah, the father of this messenger.

Zechariah gets the shock of a lifetime when an angel appears to him and tells him he and his wife would have a baby, even though they were unable to have children their entire lives. Naturally he has some doubts, and he’s made mute until his child is born. Zechariah learned obedience and to trust God’s plan, even though it didn’t make any sense. So when his son was born he gave him an obscure, non-family name, not knowing what God had planned for him, but trusting that “the hand of the Lord was with him.”

Advent is a time of waiting. The days are short, there’s darkness all around, and we are waiting for the Great Light to break in on our lives. I find myself in yet another period of uncertainty. With two small children and a husband who’s a fulltime student, my days are long, lonely, and stressful. Sometimes I wonder if we made the right decision and how I will ever survive the next two years. We are trusting that God has lead us to this place and that He will see us through.

Are you waiting in darkness or uncertainty? Is God’s will hidden from your sight? Know that the Lord is with you while you wait, use this time of uncertainty to draw closer to Him. And be encouraged by the words of the Psalm refrain: Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.

Anna Coyne is a wife, mother, knitter, gardener, and convert to the Catholic faith.  Read more about her here.

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