Reflection for Thursday, December 23, 1999: 4th week in Advent.
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Meeks, Carolyn Comeaux
A woman suffering in silent shame for her infertility throughout her reproductive years finally, into menopause, given the gift of a first child. A father, a faithful priest of Aaron's line, struck silent for his doubt that this could be so. The gift, the young son, even before speech comes to him, a prophet in his "quickening," recognizing and relating to the gestating Jesus within the womb of Mary.||These are our characters for this day before the day before Christmas. This gospel tale is not about Jesus, but about John. And backing up further, it is not really about John, but about his parents Elizabeth and Zechariah. Elizabeth, freed from her barren shame and given the gift of pregnancy and motherhood by a God who "extended his mercy to her." And Zechariah, bound in muteness for having doubted that God could provide a miraculous gestation and birth in a woman whom he clearly experiences as "over the hill."|Eight days after the birth of this boy-child, the naming ceremony takes place. As in any tight-knit community of family and friends, expectations for a proper name are circulating. Will he be named after Uncle Moshe? Or after cousin James? A sort of peer pressure abounds. Suggestions become requests become plans for the perfect name for this long-hoped-for only child of Zechariah and Elizabeth.|But then ... .who? ... .the mother? ... .insists upon a certain name. The crowd gets no explanation from her, simply: "He is to be called John." (No story of an angelic visitor; no word of the awesome series of events that have brought her to this point in her life.) But there is the infant's father: He will surely trump the mom's statement, and provide a more suitable name that will carry on the family's honor and prominence. The crowd turns to Zechariah.|Zechariah has had a dream, and it has stuck in his mind. Mute as he is, he remembers (How could he forget?) and understands, however dimly, its import. Though he can't speak, he nonetheless finds a way to communicate. Zechariah the father of the prophet, himself becomes a prophet, and in writing, "His name is John," finds his own voice again-or rather God's voice. In remembering and communicating the voice of God, he finds his own truest and strongest self: the self centered in God and God alone, around which the rest of his life finds its proper and holy relationship.|I am reminded today of an event from my own life. My husband dreamt of a tow-headed laughing baby daughter in 1991. I was pushing 40 at the time. We were in fact newly pregnant, and experiencing many graces and blessings, all shared within the context of a supportive faith-sharing community. Among the many joys of my pregnancy was discovering that other friends were also saying yes to new life during the over-35 period of their own lives. As I write this reflection, today my family celebrates the eighth birthday of our fourth child, Monica. She is a delight-the chuckling toddler of her father's dream.|Sometimes the deep voice of wisdom found within our purest prayers and our numinous self-communications can carry us through many a winding road or valley of shadow and doubt. On this day before the day before Christmas in this last year of a millennium that started with cousins born amid miracle and hope, let us listen deeply. As the Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti penned a few decades ago: "We are awaiting a rebirth of wonder." God is not far. Let the prophetic voice that points the way break through our own reserve, so that expectant wonder can be born anew in our own hearts and lives.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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