SENT ON GOD’S MISSION
People chosen by God for a special mission in his plan of salvation are constantly presented in the Bible as chosen and loved before birth, with their birth announced in a special way; they are moved by the Spirit of God; their mission demands sacrifices. Witness the call of Samson in his folkloric saga, or that of John the Baptist. The silence of Zechariah comes probably from the joy of an overwhelming message, too great to be put into words. Underlying these vocation stories is that people are weak, that salvation is gratuitously given by God, that barrenness (the barren women) gives way to fertility, that sacrifices are demanded. And so, people are to be moved by the Spirit of God. All this holds true also for us as we are called to prepare the way of the Lord.
Lord, mighty God, no angel announced our birth, but we know that you loved us, even before we were born, and that you call us to prepare the fuller coming of your Son among people. Reveal your strength in our weakness, keep us hoping in your future, that we may overcome all obstacles to establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
– For married couples who expect a child, that they may welcome the child as a present from God, we pray:
– For parents, that they inspire their children to put their talents at the service of God and people, we pray:
– For prophets of our day, that the Holy Spirit may move them to awaken us with God’s word from our lack of concern for the good of the community, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
God, our Father, you had prepared your chosen people to welcome your Son as the Savior and yet his coming took them by surprise and they did not recognize him. Wake us up with the cry of present-day prophets, to recognize and welcome him not only in these signs of bread and wine but also in the poor and the misfits, who hunger and thirst for food, for justice and peace and, perhaps without knowing it, for the dignity of your children. Grant us this through Christ, our Lord.
Prayer after Communion
Lord, God of hope, we are your people today and yet we often hide the presence of Jesus, your Son, by our compromise and conformity. Let your Son pour upon us the young wine of hope, to rupture our settled ways and make us new people who reveal in our littleness and fragility the presence in our midst of someone much greater than we are, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Christmas is near. Let our prayers become more insistent, that we may become more committed to bring the love and justice of Christ into our cold and harsh world. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The mother of Samson and the mother of John shared similar stories. With the passing of years, neither had borne children, to the chagrin of their husbands. In Hebrew society, a childless marriage was an immense misfortune; in children, family life was prolonged and life itself extended. In the home of these two women, there was no infant to be fed and cared for, to be bedded and clothed; no cry to break the still of night. In the course of time and through the power of God, the tragedy was overcome. As happens in the scriptures, the future births are heralded while the child is still in the womb. In our days of advanced medical technology, the childless marriage is not as common as at one time. In many cases it is dealt with by adoption, a very commendable step in the life of a childless couple. The child is raised in a warm atmosphere that might have otherwise been denied and is fully integrated into the family’s life. Children are informed of their adoptive status without in any way diminishing their sense of belonging. The strong desire for children that underlies today’s readings also points up the tragedy of a procured abortion. To eliminate human life at any stage is tragic; it is even more tragic to destroy life in the womb when it is only beginning. In the births pre-announced in today’s readings, two things are worthy of mention. First, Samson’s mother is never given a name, although his father, Manoah, is mentioned repeatedly. The woman is simply the barren wife who has “borne no children.” The reason for this is not clear; other women in the Bible, of lesser status, are regularly named. Samson’s mother remains in the shadows, as happens frequently in today’s society. The mother of an illegitimate child or the person who has been disgraced or violated and wishes to remain anonymous. They may be hidden but should not be forgotten. Every person has dignity before God. Second, the Baptist was born into a priestly family. This may go a long way in explaining the strong sense of faith in his life. The Christian community is called in scripture “a royal priesthood.” Every family is part of that priesthood; an atmosphere of living faith is a harbinger of a future generation’s sense of values. Or as the psalmist says today, “You who took me from my mother’s womb, my praise is continually of you.”
Points to Ponder
Childlessness Adoption To call by name Christian values in the home.