February 3, 2023

When we are confronted by pain, sufferings, and loss during the season of supposed joy, we tend to be caught up by bitterness and doubting faith. We ask why and how come? It can happen to anybody. It can happen to even pious people.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. (Luke 1:5-25)
It is beautiful to note the righteousness, obedience, piety of the couple, and how Zechariah as a priest did his ministry well. Despite that holiness in them, they were deprived of children.
I had been meeting couples who ventilated the pain and shame they encounter everytime they attend social gatherings. We have couples in the community longing for children and yet deprived of becoming a mother and a father. They are often asked, “Until now you don’t have any children to care. Do something.”
It may be an honest statement without any intention to hurt but these couples deprived of children for whatever reason are crying inside. It is sad to note however that some cultures consider barrenness as a curse. Some cultures too mock couples without children.
It is also painful to learn that there are women who intentionally abort their babies and women who throw their babies along the roadside, river banks, trash bins, and even dump fetus in the toilet. If we are hurt by the situation, so are couples longing to have babies and learn about these innocents being murdered. We cry to know that such painful situation happens in our communities.
On Christmas Day, I encourage each one to pray for couples wishing to have children and yet are deprived. Find time to be with them and console them. Be charitable to them. In like manner, we pray for women who are overcome by selfishness and shame murdering their children through abortion that they may see the light of Bethlehem to be led to conversion.
We go back to the story of Zechariah, the righteous priest. It is so astonishing to see the pious priest doubt the Lord.
Once he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. (Luke 1:3) Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years?” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
Note the two beautiful elements of the story: Zechariah was a pious priest and Angel Gabriel was sent by God to deliver his message to Zechariah. Despite these two beautiful elements, Zechariah doubted his faith and doubted the power of God.
How much more to us in this world where there are many obstacles of faith, false teachings, and pressing family and social challenges? Priests and pastors are chosen by God to deliver his message, not angels like that of Gabriel. Doubts can always take place and may even lead to disbelief and atheism.
I facilitated an advent recollection to local government unit employees. Many were moved by the talks and activities and they shared their impressions and reflections. One councilor shocked the participants. I was shocked as well. He passionately shared bitter stories about priests and pastors who became obstacles for the family to attend Sunday services and became the source of division.
Happy birthday to Rev. Fr. Benedict Castañeda and happy priestly ordination to Fr. Michael Tokoyen and Fr. Andrew Claver. Happy ordination to deacon Noel Mendoza. Merry Christmas to all of you.
Reach me at [email protected] or at 0908-727-6735.