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Unapologetic Witness

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. (see Luke 21:28) 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

dec23

“No. He will be called John.”

In today’s Gospel, Saint Elizabeth has been called by God to do something very counter-cultural. Traditionally, Elizabeth was to name her son Zechariah; to give her son a different name than his father was entirely counter-cultural. She knows she must name her child John, and knows the decision will be confusing for her family. Our call is no different—an authentically Catholic life is extremely counter-cultural in our world, and can be confusing for many.

As Catholics, God calls us to live out the teachings of the Church, which stand in opposition to much of what the world trumpets as right, good, and normal. However, it is in defending her decision that Elizabeth exemplifies how to defend our faith. She is kind, yet firm. She is gracious, yet convicted. She does not waver, nor is she apologetic. She makes it clear that it is her choice to be made, not anyone else’s. However, the questions many Catholics face on a daily basis can be difficult and exhausting.

Why waste your college years on a theology degree? Why don’t you live with your boyfriend? Ministry is nice . . . when are you going to get a real job? Why keep brainwashing your kids with this Catholicism stuff? Your hands sure are full . . . ever heard of birth control?

It is in being challenged to stand by our convictions that we can look to Elizabeth as she names her son. It is likely some of your decisions are confusing to family, friends, or co-workers. Like Elizabeth, we are called to a loving yet unapologetic witness to what we know is good and true. . . we are called to shine like a beacon of steadfast light and love into every facet of our lives, which are filled with people who may not “get it,” but whom God can bring to amazement at our decisions to live out our radical calling to follow Christ.

I pray especially for those of you for whom these upcoming days of Christmas are an endless barrage of questions at family gatherings, which can make moments of this season feel more disheartening than celebratory. Stand firm and trust the Holy Spirit to speak through you to family who may not understand or even challenge or persecute you.

In the same way He was for Elizabeth, God is on your side. Call out to Him. He’s waiting for you.

photo credit

Emily Wilson planned her whole life to become a sports reporter but turned out to be a Catholic musician and speaker at the hand of God. She lives out of her suitcase and travels across the world speaking to people of all ages. The heart of her ministry is offering encouragement to teen girls in search of their true identity, and she loves every second of it. She is the author of I Choose the Sky. You can find out more about her here.

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