Tag Archives: Zechariah

Zechariah, an inspirational father figure

June 15, 2017


St. John the Baptist. His name is John

Father’s Day is an occasion to reflect on the vocation of fatherhood.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is most remembered for not believing the angel Gabriel’s announcement and being struck speechless as a punishment, but he has many admirable qualities for fathers.

Zechariah was married to Elizabeth, and both of them were advanced in years and still together.  Zechariah loved his wife and he was completely faithful to their marriage covenant.  Fatherhood is not a married man’s first vocation, but rather being devoted to one’s wife and being an excellent husband.  Good husbands make good fathers.

Zechariah was righteous.  A righteous Jew is law abiding.  This does not refer to his observance of civil law and his status as a citizen of his country, but rather his observance of the Mosaic Law and his spiritual standing before God.  Zechariah carefully and conscientiously obeyed the Ten Commandments as well as all of the other 603 precepts of the Law.   A good father observes God’s laws and has high moral standards, and then teaches these laws to his children, first and foremost with his example, and also with his instruction, house rules, and implementation.

Not only was Zechariah righteous, he was righteous in the eyes of God.  God sees everything, not only public and external things, but also private and internal things.  Zechariah obeyed God’s laws whether people were watching or not.  His observance was not for show.  He was good inside and out.  He was authentic, a man of integrity, truthful and honest.  Fathers like Zechariah help their children understand that God’s laws apply at all times under all circumstances, and that the top priority should be to please God in every instance, not to win the approval of others.

Zechariah was old and had no children.  This was a tremendous disappointment to him, but he did not turn sour, negative, rebellious, or cynical.  Zechariah was stable and he handled his troubles with grace and composure.  All fathers are faced with various setbacks, and fathers like Zechariah are able to remain calm and levelheaded, and able to carry on with purpose.

Zechariah went to the Temple where he prayed, and he took regular turns doing so.  He had a personal relationship with God which he nurtured with frequent prayer which was an intimate conversation which kept them closely bonded together.  Fathers who go to church and pray on a regular basis are guided by God in how to raise their children, and they receive God’s help.

When Zechariah’s son was born, he insisted that his name would be John.  This choice violated the custom of naming a child after his father or another relative.  Zechariah was not swayed by pressure or the expectations of his neighbors and relatives.  The angel had conveyed God’s wish, and Zechariah was adamant and unyielding when it came to obeying God.  There are many opinions and social expectations for how to raise children.  Fathers like Zechariah take their cues from God and are not unduly influenced by other people, old customs, or modern trends.

Finally, Zechariah offered a canticle of praise (Lk 1:68-79).  Zechariah was able to see and count his many blessings, and with faith and gratitude, he honored and glorified God with words of thanks.  Fathers like Zechariah are alert enough to take stock of the good things that God has given them, have an appreciative attitude, and frequently lift God’s name in praise.

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Zechariah and Elizabeth: Late Advent Special Personalities

December 8, 2010


Zechariah names his newborn son. Photo taken at St. John the Baptist in Savage

Meet The Characters

Zechariah was a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem (Lk 1:5); his wife was Elizabeth (Lk 1:5); he was a righteous and holy man (Lk 1:6); and he was older with no children (Lk 1:7) which was a source of considerable embarrassment in ancient society.  On one occasion he was chosen by lot from among the other priests to offer incense in the Holy of Holies (Lk 1:9), a privilege most priests never experienced in their lifetime.  While he was in the sanctuary he was blessed by the appearance of an angel (Lk 1:11) which is a rarity in the gospels.  The only others to receive angelic appearances were Mary (Lk 1:26-38); Joseph (Mt 1:20; 2:13,19); the shepherds (Lk 2:9-15); Jesus (Mt 4:11; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43); and Mary Magdalene and the other women (Mt 28:2; Lk 24:4; Jn 20:12). The angel announced that he would be the father of John the Baptist (Lk 1:13-17), but he was so concerned with his limitations, namely his age, that he doubted that God’s promise could come true (Lk 1:18).  In spite of years of faithful service, God penalized Zechariah for his mistake by striking him speechless throughout Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Lk 1:20).  To Zechariah’s credit, he obeyed God, had relations with his wife, and she conceived.  When it came time to name the child, he followed the angel’s instructions (Lk 1:13) and insisted that the baby’s name would be John (Lk 1:63), not his own name.  He is remembered for offering one of the most beautiful praise prayers in all of Scripture, Zechariah’s Canticle (Lk 1:68-79).

Elizabeth was the wife of Zechariah.   She and her husband belonged to the priestly class (Lk 1:5).  She was righteous and holy (Lk 1:6) and filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41).  She reached old age without bearing a child (Lk 1:7), but then conceived a son (Lk 1:24), went into a five-month period of seclusion (Lk 1:24), and then gave birth to John the Baptist (Lk 1:57).  Elizabeth was the first person in the gospel to call Jesus “Lord” (Lk 1:43).  Elizabeth was Mary’s relative (Lk 1:36), but it is not known whether she was an aunt, cousin, or some other relation.

Biblical Characters that help us prepare for Christmas. Zechariah and Elizabeth are two key figures in the first chapter of Luke’s Infancy Narrative (Lk 1:5-2:52), and they play prominent roles in the gospel readings for the weekday Masses immediately before Christmas.  The gospel for December 19 is the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist by Gabriel to Zechariah (Lk 1:5-25), December 21 is Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-45), December 23 is the birth of the Baptist (Lk 1:57-66), and December 24 is Zechariah’s Canticle (Lk 1:67-79).  The Visitation is also the gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in Year C.

Two Annunciations, two very different responses.
The archangel Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and the birth of Jesus to Mary.  Both asked, “How can this be?”, but the mindset behind their questions was different.  Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s words and objected that he was an old man and that his wife was advanced in years (Lk 1:18,20), while Mary trusted, despite her confusion, and replied, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).  The stories of these two responses are placed side-by-side to compare the depth of faith and the quality of response to a divine proclamation.  Zechariah doubted and resisted.  Mary trusted and agreed.  God was pleased with Mary’s faith, but Zechariah was struck speechless.

Pause to examine. Luke often presents pairs of characters such as Mary and Martha or the repentant criminal and the abusive criminal, and he does so to get us thinking.  Which character am I more like?  Which one should I be like?  Zechariah and Mary present us with an opportunity to examine ourselves.  Do I doubt?  Do I resist God and God’s plan?  Or, Am I steadfast in faith?  Am I open and eager to do God’s will?

Two Conceptions, two very different miracles. Elizabeth was old and barren, Mary was young and fertile.  It is an incredible miracle for someone beyond their child-bearing years to conceive by natural means, but it is an even greater miracle for a virgin to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The stories of the two conceptions are told side-by-side as a study in contrast intended to show their relative importance.  Elizabeth’s conception was absolutely remarkable, but Mary’s conception was the greatest of all.

Pause to ponder. The conceptions and births of Jesus and John the Baptist were miracles.  Both are mysteries and matters of faith.  It is beneficial to take time and meditate on the miraculous nature of these events.  Our prayer will lead us to a deeper appreciation of these awesome mysteries and move us to a more profound spiritual celebration of Christmas.

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