Homily for Thursday 24th December 2020 (Morning)
Theme: Zechariah’s Magnificat
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Thursday December 24 2020
Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people. He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
This is the last day of our nine-day Simbang Gabi. And tonight, at our Midnight Mass, we start the Christmas Season, the celebration of the great feast of the Birth of Our Lord. The Season of Christmas cannot be celebrated without songs. Singing, in fact, is our natural response to this mystery of God’s self-giving: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”
This has been clearly shown in the Gospels for the past days of our Simbang Gabi. The multitude of the heavenly host sang at the birth of Jesus. At the Visitation, Elizabeth sang the Hail Mary. And Mary, in turn, sang the Magnificat. And on this last day, we hear Zechariah singing the Benedictus.
The word ‘Benedictus’ comes from the first words of the prayer in Latin, “Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel” (“Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel”). While the Magnificat is sung by the Church during Vespers (Evening Prayer), the Benedictus, on the other hand, is chanted at Lauds (Morning Prayer). We may wonder why it is chosen for the morning praise. One explanation can be taken from the experience of Zechariah. Due to his unbelief in the words of the angel, he was struck dumb for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. He was silent all throughout this time. Then, when his tongue was loosed and began to speak again, the first words that came out of his mouth are profuse praises and thanksgiving to God.
Similarly, after having been ‘silenced’ by sleep throughout the night, God opens our mouths in the morning. And like Zechariah, the first words that must come out of our mouths are those of thanksgiving and praise to God. Hence, the Church uses the Benedictus in the morning after rising from bed.
In this song, God is praised and blessed because “He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant”, a clear reference to Jesus. Zechariah thanks God for having “visited his people” and rescued them “from the hand of enemies”, in fulfillment of His promise made “through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old.”
Zechariah proclaims that Jesus is the ‘Rising Sun’ who will “give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death”. In the brightness of that light, He will “guide our feet into the path of peace”. We all realize how urgently that peace is needed in our world, in our own communities, in our homes and in our own selves. There is always hope for us all because Jesus, the Sun of Justice, brings light and peace to the world.
In the Benedictus, we join ourselves to the mission of St. John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Lord by preaching repentance and conversion, in order “to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” Like Zechariah and his son, John, may we, too, use our voice and the witness of our lives, to bring people to the path of peace by making known to them the hope and salvation that Jesus brings.
As we celebrate the fifth centenary of Christianization of the Philippines, let us reflect on our life as ‘Jesus’ Missionary Disciples’. We thank God for giving us the light of faith. May we, in turn, share this light, and help fill the world with the Light of Christ and His gift of peace. This is what the angels sang on that first Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!” May the Prince of Peace come and dwell among us this Christmas.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches