Archbishop’s Teaching

3rd Sunday of Advent The Annunciation to Zechariah Luke 1:1-25

Homily of His Excellency Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

3rd Sunday of Advent
The Annunciation to Zechariah
Luke 1:1-25

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

With the proclamation to Zechariah, we enter directly into the season of
Advent according to the liturgical calendar of our Maronite Church. Our
renewed commitment to our faith in Christ is further illuminated by
meditating on two Old Testament figures: Abraham and Zechariah. What
they have in common is that they both received a promise from the Lord.
Both men's faith in God and their hope in the impossible were put to the
test. However, a difference emerges.
While Abraham, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, hoped
against hope, believed and did not waver in his faith when, almost a
hundred years old, although he considered that his body was already
marked by death and that Sarah could no longer bear children, we discover
the priest Zechariah, representative of the people, considered righteous
before God, offering a sacrifice in His name, shows a certain perplexity
in welcoming the good news of being the father of a child "offered as a
gift" in the twilight of his life, when he, like Abraham, could not, given
his advanced age, have offspring...

Zechariah could not understand such a promise; he needed a sign to
believe, whereas the birth of a child in his old age, announced by the angel
Gabriel (meaning Mighty God), would only be the prelude to an infinitely
more marvelous work. In fact, this announcement was not only addressed
to the barren couple Zechariah-Elizabeth, but was part of God's desire to
prepare a "well-disposed people" to receive the Savior. This is at the heart
of the proclamation of this good news! But in front of Zechariah, who
remained focused on his problem of old age, not on divine power! God
gave him a sign: the "silence" to enter not as punished for his incredulity,
but as amazed in the mystery of a God for whom nothing is impossible!
We too, faced with the problems of our lives, with trials of every kind,
with the misfortunes that beset us, and with the temptation to give up and
despair of everything, doubt the power of the Lord's grace, who never
ceases to announce Good News to us, to send us a promise of salvation in
his own Son, Jesus Christ. We wonder how God will save us, and how He
intervenes in our lives.... Do we have the faith of Abraham? Will we dare
to hope against hope like Abraham, or will we be unbelievers like
Do we still believe that God's time is not the time of our impatience, that
God's logic is infinitely opposed to ours and that "his judgments are
unfathomable and his ways incomprehensible! God knows that we need
maturity to enter into His Mystery; He knows what is right for us at every
moment... and the fulfilment of His promise to us will come at the chosen
As we prepare to welcome the mystery of His presence among us through
the birth of His Son Jesus, God the Father challenges us in our faith, will
we be ready personally and together as Church to take up this challenge?

Lord! I believe in You, increase my faith every day. Give me a heart that
prays to You, in silence, to welcome the promise of Your salvation
realized in Jesus Christ Our Lord. I beg you for the grace to believe in the
impossible, to believe that Your Love works miracles and that I bear
witness that You alone are our only Hope against all hope. Amen.

† Archbishop Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

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