Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
“Suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.” Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, met a messenger (angel) of the Lord in the temple, and righteous though he was, he was caught off guard. “But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.” If we truly long for the Lord who so loves us, these should be words of consolation. Though we may not be able to “endure the day of his coming” as we are, if we trust him and cling to his Word, then the Lord himself will make us worthy, as he did for Zechariah. “He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.” For Zechariah, being thrown into the refiner’s crucible meant being made mute until the birth of his son, the Lord’s forerunner. It was not until the presentation of his son in the temple, when Zechariah wrote the surprising and unexpected words, “John is his name” on a tablet, that Zechariah regains his speech, in order that he might use it for the reason for which it exists: to give praise to God.
In the collect of yesterday’s Mass, we begged the Lord for the grace “that those who confess his Incarnation with humble fervor may merit his company as their Redeemer.” We cannot merit God’s gifts on our own, but God can give us the grace of meriting a redeemer. We need only let ourselves be guided by God in docile obedience as Zechariah did. We should not focus on our own “purification,” as some of the Pharisees did. If we cling to God and concern ourselves with what he gives us, he will concern himself with us. When we try to love as God calls us to love, especially when that goes against our inclinations, God is at work refining us “like gold.” The reward that he gives (as a grace!) is for us to be like gold that, having passed through the crucible of love, shines for the glory of God’s love. If, as we hear in today’s post-communion prayer, we let ourselves be nourished by God’s gifts, then God can give us the grace to “be ready, with lighted lamps, to meet [His] dearly beloved Son at his coming.”