thers and children, and lead the dis-obedient to wisdom and righteous-ness, in order to make ready a peo-ple prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel,“How can I believe this? I am an oldman and my wife is elderly, too.”
The angel replied, “I am Gabriel,who stands before God, and I am theone sent to speak to you, and tobring you this good news! My wordswill come true in their time.
But youwould not believe, and now you willbe silent and unable to speak untilthis has happened.”
Meanwhile, the people waitedfor Zechariah, and they were sur-prised that he delayed so long in thesanctuary.
When he ﬁnally ap-peared, he could not speak to them,and they realized that he had seen avision in the sanctuary. He remaineddumb and made signs to them.
When his time of service wascompleted, Zechariah returned home,
and some time later Elizabeth be-came pregnant. For ﬁve months shekept to herself, remaining at home,and thinking,
“This, for me, is theLord’s doing! This is his time formercy, and for taking away my pub-lic disgrace.”
In the sixth month, the angelGabriel was sent from God to a townof Galilee called Nazareth. He wassent
to a young virgin, who was be-trothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’sname was Mary.
The angel came to her and said,“Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord iswith you.”
Mary was troubled atthese words, wondering what thisgreeting could mean.
But the angel said, “Do not fear,Mary, for God has looked kindly onyou.
You shall conceive and bear ason, and you shall call him Jesus.
He will be great, and shall rightly becalled Son of the Most High. TheLord God will give him the kingdomof David, his ancestor; he will ruleover the people of Jacob forever,
and his reign shall have no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel,“How can this be, since I am a vir-gin?”
And the angel said to her,
Zechariah’s son was to be a Nazirite
fromhis mother’s womb
until his death, as Samsonhad been (Jdg 13:5). The one who would beknown as John the Baptist receives the mis-sion to preach repentance, and his very lifewas to be a model of austerity (Mk 1:6). In thathe will be the opposite of Jesus who, but forexceptional times such as his fasting in thedesert, would live like everyone else and notrequest special fasts of his disciples (Lk 7:33-34).Then, the angel indicates what John, Zecha-riah’s son, will be:
He will go in the spirit and power of Elijah
(v. 17). In Scripture we seethat after Elijah disappeared, having beentaken to heaven in a ﬂaming chariot (2 K2:11), the community of believers kept won-dering about the meaning of such an unusualevent. They even thought that just as Elijahhad worked during a time of religious crisis tobring his people back to faith, so he would alsoreturn from heaven before the coming of theMessiah to restore his people’s faithfulness.The text here refers to this Israelite expec-tation: one should not think that Elijah wouldreturn from heaven in person as Malachi 3:23seemed to say. Rather John the Baptist wouldoperate
with the spirit of Elijah
to obtain rec-onciliation for all, through justice and faithful-ness to God’s law.So, in this remote corner of the world, theGood News begins with an elderly and child-less couple, because nothing is impossible withGod.
THE VIRGIN MARY
• 26.The ﬁrst two chapters of this Gospelare, like the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel,an account of the infancy of Jesus. The spirit,however, is entirely different. Matthew useswithout scruple stories that were not authenti-cated, but were in the tradition of “infancies of
Dn 8:16;9:21Gen 21:6;1S 1:10;Is 4:1Mt 1:18Ru 2:4;3:121:13Is 7:14;Mt 1:212S 7:16;Is 9:6;Dn 7:14Mt 1:20;Is 11:1;