4th Day of Simbang Gabi (December 19, 2022)


For the Jewish people, even in the old testament, there were three forms of blessing namely, having a good name, having a long life, and the gift of fertility.

Having a good name means prosperity, wealth, and good health. If one is blessed with these things, he/she is considered “blest”. It follows that if one doesn’t have these, he/she is considered “cursed”. In the story of Job for example, these are the things that the tempter took away from him to test his faithfulness to God.

Having a long life is a sign of righteousness and holiness among the people in the old testament. Although their longevity is debated whether literal or just symbolic, still the message is that long life is connected with being blest and favored. Job was 210 years old when he died, Isaac was 180 years old, Abraham was 175, Jacob was 147, Moses was 120 years old. For them when one died at an early age, he/she is not blest. So those who are holy and blest enjoyed longevity.

The gift of Fertility is manifested in two forms: fertility of the harvest and fertility of the offspring. The people who experienced famine due to plague and drought were considered cursed by God because of their sins and the sins of their ancestors. Those who had good harvest were considered blest because they were favored. In the same manner, those who had many children were hailed as blest due to their righteousness but those who were barren were considered cursed, sinful, and despised by the community.

This was the very predicament experienced by Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah, was a priest in the Temple so he was considered righteous, holy, “blest”. Ironically, the couple was not blest with children, so in their culture, they were considered cursed.

Imagine the frustration of being faithful in service to the Lord, of being considered “holy”, of being unceasing in service, and yet being seemingly cursed with infertility. Imagine carrying on your religious duties day by day and yet being judged not by your actions but by their biases and prejudices.  Imagine being Zechariah or Elizabeth, only imagine it in modern times.

To the employee who has endeavored nothing else but to do one’s best, and yet becomes the subject of office gossip.  To the family member who has labored and toiled and has not received any expression of gratitude.  To each individual who seems to have been placed in a seemingly fruitless limbo. You are all Zechariah or Elizabeth of these modern times.

But the beauty of the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth lies in how the story unfolded. The couple persevered. They carried on, despite the hurtful words or thoughts others might have had against them. They kept the faith. And in the end, they were vindicated. Their perseverance was rewarded.

We might find ourselves in the same situation. When the waiting seems fruitless, when our faithfulness seems unrewarded, remember to keep the faith. Know that if we work for God, He will surely work for us.

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Leo Alaras

Fray Leo G. Alaras OAR