Tuesday, December 19, 2006

19 December
New Life for the Barren

Readings: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a; Psalm 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17; Luke 1:5-25

It is a painful experience to be barren. Couples trying in vain to conceive know something of what it’s like to be in the shoes of Zechariah and Elizabeth and of Manoah and his unnamed wife. But so do others as well. We’ve probably heard, for example, of the anguish suffered by those with writers’ block, when creative juices dry up and one doesn’t seem to have anything meaningful left to say. We’ve probably also encountered times when winter seems to have arrived into our hearts and our lives – when no traces of vitality can be found – when the days seem perpetually cold and forbidding.

And not just individuals but communities and whole nations have experiences of barrenness too, don’t they? Isn’t this the lot of God’s chosen people in the days of Manoah and of Zechariah? Around the time Samson is born, the people of Israel are suffering under the constant attacks of their neighbours especially the Philistines. And by the time of Zechariah, in addition to being conquered by the Romans, the people have for many generations been going through the motions of ritual observance without hearing God’s prophetic and life-giving word.

It is into this dark and depressing milieu that God’s powerful word is spoken – a word that quite literally gives birth to new life, new hope, new possibilities of a radiant and vibrant future. But to experience this newness, to be in tune with this great divine initiative, one must have faith, must believe even in the midst of the darkness that God will indeed let it come to pass. Or one risks being struck dumb like Zechariah – who has nothing left to say because he finds it difficult to receive the only word that is worth speaking. And, just as important, one must realize that the new life that is coming to birth, however quietly and inconspicuously, is not ours to hoard. Rather does it need to be consecrated to God and held in trust for the benefit of others. So that the lips of all may be filled with the glory and praise of the One who brings abundant life to hearts and lives that are barren.

What is our experience of barrenness? How is God speaking His life-giving word to us today?

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