A reading from the gospel according to Luke 1:39-56
39 Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
47 my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
48 for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed:
49 the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.
50 He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
51 He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
52 He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
55 the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Good News: God remembers His Promise of mercy.
Our reading today is about the meeting of two women, both pregnant, blessed and full of joy. Mary with Jesus in her womb visited her cousin Elizabeth who was six month pregnant of John. As soon as the latter saw the former, the human beings inside them also met and made their presence felt. Elizabeth then exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women”. For her part, Mary sang her famous canticle where he extolled God’s great deeds and mercy most especially for lowly people.
The gospel describes Mary’s travel to be “in haste”. Let us call to mind that this passage of Luke follows immediately the annunciation of Mary’s own pregnancy by the angel Gabriel. Most probably, she was “in haste” because she was so excited to see the miracle of Elizabeth’s conceiving of a child in old age and also to tell her about her own pregnancy. Most likely too, she wanted to be at Elizabeth’s side to give help because of the latter’s situation.
What is significant in the story above is work of the Holy Spirit. When Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, she was able to recognize that Mary would be the Mother of her Lord. Indeed, it is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to discern what is hidden to others.
Let us now turn to Mary’s Magnificat. The song itself is pregnant with deep reflection of God’s characteristics.
First, she praises God’s mighty deeds in her life. All generation from then on will call her blessed because God picked her to be the mother of His only Son who would do the mightiest deed ever, the redemption of humanity.
Second, she glorifies God’s mercy to lowly people like herself. God will lift up those who are cast down and He will overthrow the conceited and the arrogant. He will feed the hungry and help the servants.
Third, she mentions that God will forever remember His promise to Abraham and his children. In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised to bless Abraham and all of his descendants. As believers in Jesus, we become the descendants of Abraham by faith and the heirs of God’s promise. (Galatians 3:29) Thus, God’s blessing, as promised to Abraham, is upon us. That is, if we belong to Christ.
Lessons from Mary the Mother of Jesus and Elizabeth
1. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, were both exceptional women who were chosen to play important roles in salvation history. Both were filled with the Holy Spirit which empowered them to the fulfill mission entrusted unto them. Both lived in a paternalistic society and we must remember that the terms sexism and women liberation were unheard of during those days. We can only imagine the internal anxiety that Mary went through upon knowing that she will be pregnant without having a relationship with a man. There was of course the very harsh punishment that was awaiting her yet she trusted in God’s will and power. For Elizabeth, we can only imagine how she coped with barrenness and perhaps with insults she must have gotten from neighbors and relatives. Moreover, it was not easy to bear a child in old age, was it? There were no medical experts to help. She, too, gave her full trust in the goodness and mercy of God.
2. Mary was just a simple girl from a faraway rural area. She was not part of the establishment. So why did God chose her to be the mother of the savior of mankind? Of course we will never know the exact reason or reasons but God prepared her for the role. She accepted the offer with humility and until the last breath of Jesus, she was there, always available to serve her son, God’s Son. She is truly the supreme example of motherhood.
3. In her canticle, Mary showed us what discipleship is. First, a disciple proclaims the greatness of God and rejoices in His mighty work of salvation. Second, he or she is a lowly servant who works for justice so that the hungry will be fed and the rich and powerful will not abuse their power. Third, he recognizes that God is holy and therefore we too must be holy. Fourth, he also understands that God is more powerful than the most powerful earthly ruler. Lastly, he discerns that God alone knows the boundary of His justice and mercy and in His time, He will fulfill all His promises.
Dear Jesus, please send forth your Holy Spirit to strengthen us and to enlighten us that we may discern your message in our particular situation today. Amen.
See also: Matthew 19:13-15 Reflection