Fr. Mike’s Homily for Thursday of the 4th Week of Advent
Theme: Courage to proclaim His gospel
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
Homily for Thursday December 23 2021
Simbang Gabi – Day 08
December 23, 2021
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.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This is what Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet. In other words, a name does not change the essence of a person or thing. Even if we call a barking four-legged animal a ‘goat’, it is still a dog. In short, for us, a name is not essential to a person. It can be changed at will, and that would not matter at all.
But this is not the case with the Jewish people. For them, the name of the person is already the person. That is why they cannot and should not pronounce the name of God, for that is considered an offense against the second commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.” They are also too careful in addressing a person by his name for it already directly refers to the person himself and his mission in life. Hence, choosing a name for every child is such an important matter for them.
The family and neighbors of Zechariah and Elizabeth are excited about the newborn boy. On the eighth day, they all gather for the ritual circumcision of the baby. This is the occasion when the name of the child is given. The relatives and friends are one in saying that the boy should be named after his father, Zechariah. This was the prevailing custom of the Jews. He should be named Zechariah Jr.. They have to abide by what the people customarily do.
But his mother objected: “No. He will be called John.” This name means “God is gracious.” For, indeed, God has shown His abounding love and grace to Elizabeth. They are all surprised at her reply. So, they consult the father, Zechariah, and ask for his opinion. At this time, he is still mute. This was the angel’s punishment for not believing in the divine message. But being mute gave him the time and the opportunity to enter into deep silence and reflection on God’s words and His inscrutable design for him, his family and the entire humanity.
His answer, then, is not anymore based on respect for human tradition or custom, but on a profound faith and understanding of God’s will. Using a writing tablet, he replies, “John is his name.” Then his tongue is loosed, and he begins to speak again.
The example of Zechariah gives us an important lesson. His relatives and neighbors wanted to name the baby after his father because that was ʹwhat people didʹ. But God does not ask us to do ʹwhat people do’ or ‘what people expect us to do’. He asks us to do His Will.
This is one area where too many of us are guilty of. There are times when we have to do something against our will, simply because we are concerned about what other people may think or feel. We are afraid to offend anybody out of ‘human respect’. It should be noted that human respect is not a virtue. It is an excessive regard for the opinions or esteem of other men. It is a kind of fear of the judgment of others.
The one acting from this motive lacks courage or fortitude. This excessive concern for the opinion of others may lead one to act against moral principles and thus to do evil in order to gain the esteem of others. This obviously is morally wrong, for it involves an inversion of moral values, where human esteem is preferred over the virtuous good.
Fortitude is the virtue that is very characteristic of John the Baptist, which we may assume he learned from the example of his own father. In his preaching, he says what needs to be said, according to what God wants him to say, regardless of what people may say or feel. This led him to his death in the hands of King Herod. But this also gave him the crown of martyrdom and true greatness in the eyes of God and men.
In this Mass, let us ask God to grant us the grace to grow in the virtue of fortitude in order to courageously proclaim His Gospel and do His will despite all odds. Thus, may we become God’s instruments in spreading and defending the truth in this world darkened by deceptions, lies, and errors. It is, after all, the truth that sets us free.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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