It occurred to me, and I preached accordingly tonight, that the angel's reply to Zacharias in St. Luke 1 ("Behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed") was not necessarily a rebuke.
I've wondered about this, frankly, for years, ever since I read in Lenski's commentary a rather lame comparison between Zacharias 'disbelief' and the Blessed Virgin's question to the angel, in the same chapter, regarding her virgin conception of Christ. He declared, as I recall, that whereas Zacharias' question indicated unbelief on his part, Mary's question did not, but only an inquiry as to how she ought to expect the angel's word to come true, "seeing I know not a man." Hence, if you follow this line of reasoning, Zacharias was struck dumb, whereas Mary suffered no recrimination or ill consequence from her questioning of the angel.
All this assumes that what befell Zacharias was a punishment of sorts for his disbelief.
What's troubling about this assumption is that it is crystal clear, in the same chapter, that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." We may deduce, I suppose, that suddenly Zacharias slipped up, or that in spite of his faithful blamelessness, he was nevertheless a sinner (which is certainly true, as in the case of all of us whose faith, like Abraham's, God reckons to us for righteousness). But neither of these explanations fits the context of this account.
Thus it occurred to me that the angel's rejoinder to Zacharias may not have been a rebuke at all. Perhaps it was merely an explanation for what followed. Because he did not believe the word of the angel, therefore a sign was given with it, to give him the confidence he otherwise lacked. Because he did not believe on the strength of the angel's word alone, therefore this was added: he was struck dumb.
Imagine it from Zacharias' point of view: first he experiences, and expresses, doubt over whether all this is really so. Then, he is struck dumb. How clearly this must have taught him the utter truthfulness of it all: he could not utter a word! There was the very proof he needed.
Similarly, we need additions to the sheer word of promise. So we are given Holy Sacraments, which are heavenly signs, seals from God, to accompany His promise. For we, like Zacharias, are prone to fickleness of the flesh. Hence God in His inestimable mercy grants to us the support we require, even as He did for this saint.