Malilong: Zechariah

Frank Malilong
·2 min read

I am a Catholic. Whether I am a good one, I leave it to my God.

I was a regular churchgoer on Sundays and on holidays of obligation until the last week of March when all houses of worship were shut down and we were ordered to stay home because of the pandemic. Now, I hear mass via Facebook live or on television instead.

I read the day’s gospel almost without fail but I do not pretend to know the Bible or understand everything that I read. In the latter case, I let my faith take over. Fold the pages, a priest once told us. In God’s time and by His grace, you will be able to find answers to your questions. And so I wait.

Except on this one which I always come across at this time of the year during one of the dawn masses and which I came across again while hearing the 5 o’clock dawn mass yesterday on ABS-CBN. I need a lifeline. I hope I can find one.

It’s about Zechariah and his muting on the occasion of the angel Gabriel’s visit to the temple to announce that he and his wife were going to have a son. Here is Luke’s account of the relevant (to this subject) conversation between Gabriel and Zechariah.

“Do not be afraid Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John.”

“What proof is there for this? I am an old man, and my wife is beyond her childbearing years.”

“I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. God sent me to tell you this good news. But because you don’t believe what I said, you will be unable to talk until the day happens.”

And so Zechariah was unable to speak anymore until Elizabeth gave birth to John. Was he being punished? The angel’s declaration does not seem to leave any doubt that he was for not believing the news about his wife’s pregnancy.

The penalty was swift and summary, all for daring to ask a question. What happened to the freedom of expression?

Six months after Elizabeth became pregnant, the angel Gabriel also visited Mary to announce to her that she was also going to bear a son. To which she asked in reply: How can this be? I am a virgin.” Gabriel did not punish her for questioning and instead explained to her that the Holy Spirit was going to come to her and the power of the most high will overshadow her.

Zechariah asked almost the same question but got no explanation. Why? What is the message hidden behind the uneven treatment? Will someone please tell me?