Set Apart

First Reading: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25A

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites,
whose name was Manoah.
His wife was barren and had borne no children.
An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,
“Though you are barren and have had no children,
yet you will conceive and bear a son.
Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink
and to eat nothing unclean.
As for the son you will conceive and bear,
no razor shall touch his head,
for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.
It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel
from the power of the Philistines.”

The woman went and told her husband,
“A man of God came to me;
he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed.
I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name.
But he said to me,
‘You will be with child and will bear a son.
So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.
For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb,
until the day of his death.’”

The woman bore a son and named him Samson.
The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him;
the Spirit of the LORD stirred him.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 71:3-4A, 5-6AB, 16-17

R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
For you are my hope, O LORD;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
I will treat of the mighty works of the LORD;
O God, I will tell of your singular justice.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!

Gospel: Luke 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”


dec 19

You were set apart—chosen for the particular life God has written for you—before you were born. God calls YOU and you alone for this life He has sketched. No one else can fulfill your purpose. Think on that for a minute.

In the First Reading and Gospel today, we are given a glimpse into the birth announcements of two particular men, set apart. An angel appears to a woman thought barren (talk about a surprise in what you thought was your vocation!) in each instance. It is announced that they are both to be consecrated to God as Nazarites—set apart for a special purpose.

Samson and John the Baptist are two of only three people in the Bible (Samuel being the third) who are given this designation from birth for the entirety of their lives.

God has a special task for each of these men: Samson is to bring deliverance to Israel from the Philistines; John the Baptist is to prepare the hearts of the Israelites for their coming Savior. No small undertaking for either of them. I’m sure when they discovered their vocations, they were filled with more than a little trepidation. Just how am I going to carry that out?! surely crossed their minds more than once.

But it is what God had in mind for them. It is the purpose for which they were created.

What is God calling you to do? Are you following the plan He has for your life? Are you listening as He speaks to you in the quiet moments, nudging you towards the specific tasks He has chosen for your life?

Is He asking you to sit a little longer with a grieving friend? Is He asking you to play that game for the seven millionth time with your little one? Is He asking you to share the words I love you more often with the ones you love? Is He asking you to restructure your company’s entire system of operating? Is He asking you to offer a meal to that homeless man? Is He asking you to be still?

These moments are the way we live out our vocations. They are the way we fulfill the vocation of friend, colleague, sister, daughter, mother, wife. But, more so, they are the way YOU live out the task God has set apart for you to live in Him and for Him.

As we near closer and closer to the birth of our Savior, it is a good time to help clear those distractions which make it difficult for us to hear His whispers in our hearts. Are you ready and willing to go along with what God has set apart for you?

photo by Madi Myers-Cook

Laurel Muff is a creator and appreciator of beautiful things. She resides with her husband and daughters in Northern California. You can find more about her here.

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