23 December 2011

Why are they afraid of John?

NB.  I got a third of the way through this homily before I remembered that Deacon John is preaching at this morning's Mass.  So, let's hear what you think about the question:  Why would all those who hear of John's birth be afraid?

4th Week of Advent (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Doubting the word of the angel Gabriel, Zechariah's tongue is stilled. Because he failed to listen and believe, he is prevented from praising God's gift of a son while his wife, Elizabeth, is pregnant. In order to understand Zechariah's punishment we must remember that God has no need of our praise. Praising God benefits the one who praises Him and those who hear Him praised. Thus, Zechariah is denied the benefits he might have otherwise received by giving God thanks for his child. Once Zechariah agrees in writing to name his child “John,” his tongue is freed, and he heaps blessings on God for His gift. Zechariah's reaction to John's birth is perfectly understandable. Both he and Elizabeth are elderly, and Elizabeth was known to be barren. To be given a child is a spectacular blessing! Less understandable is the reaction of their neighbors. Luke reports that “. . .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.'” 

Question:  Why would all those who hear of John's birth be afraid?

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  1. Gregg the Obscure10:28 AM

    "Woe is me . . . because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people that hath unclean lips".

    Zechariah and Elizabeth were clearly holy people, so Zechariah's having been silenced by the Most High Himself could put folks in mind of the potential consequences of their own actions. Just as John miractulously witnessed to Jesus before either was born, his proclamation of repentance started very early on indeed.

  2. Why wouldn't they be afraid? They had seen evidence that God was working, not only in the birth, but in the choice of a name. I expect it was the talk of the neighbourhood - and what might happen next? God had been silent for so long . . .