Dec. 23: Did you hear?

Dec. 23: Third Saturday of Advent

And all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea (Lk 1:65).


Several years ago, a poem appeared in the New Yorker, composed by the Italian Giovanni Pascoli and translated by the late, great Seamus Heaney, that reads: “In a huddle by the fence/ Neighbour women, hard at the usual talk: About so and so who could be whoever’s twin.”

This captures the essence of small-town gossip: the close-knit village, the chattering busybodies who mind everyone else’s business, the whispered transmission of the latest news. We have all experienced the potent force of such gossip and the ability of a crowd to exert its influence.

In Luke’s telling, the villagers come together to rejoice at the birth of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s baby. But they also come to impose upon the parents the uncompromising claims of tradition: The new parents will call this baby after his father...won’t they? It must have taken courage for Elizabeth to stand up to the social pressure, her still-muted husband standing next to her, unable to lend support as she dares to choose an unorthodox name. Zechariah’s silence does not stop this crowd, though: They brush off the noncompliant Elizabeth and put the question to him nonverbally.

Zechariah has challenged God’s wisdom once before, and he is not about to do it again: He affirms that the baby’s name will not be crowd-sourced but will be “John,” as God wills it. Other people sometimes think they know our business better than we do, and it can be challenging to resist the pressure that comes with this. But through prayer and patient discernment, we can find the fortitude to follow God’s plan, not that of the neighbors.

Prayer: Lord of the villages, towns and cities, Help me put the expectations of others in their proper place and listen only for your guiding voice within. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

More: Advent / Scripture

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The appointments are part of an ongoing effort to give a greater role to women in the work of the Roman Curia offices, the central administration of the Catholic church.
Gerard O’ConnellApril 21, 2018
Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”