And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. Lk 1:45
In today’s reading, two women bound together by blood, condition and heavenly purpose greet each other in a Judean town. Their greeting is full of joy. A child leaps in a womb. The Holy Spirit fills the room and blessings are shared amongst relatives. It’s a vivid image for anyone who has ever been around an expecting mother.
There is a shadow of sadness in Elizabeth’s joy. When she learned of her pregnancy, she described her joy as, “The Lord…took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” Elizabeth’s fulfillment is intimately tied to removing years of disgrace. Her words make me think of all women who have had to endure disgrace because they cannot, or, choose not to become pregnant.
I find myself asking a question, how much does Mary’s family know? If they do not know, Elizabeth has created quite an awkward moment by loudly crying, “Blessed is the fruit in your womb!” The two pregnancies are different. Elizabeth’s pregnancy removes disgrace and Mary’s pregnancy creates it.
There is more at work here than disgrace. Mary can be stoned to death for being pregnant outside of marriage. Joseph could be stoned to death for not demanding it. The support of her family and her future husband helps turn death into life. Today, I am thinking of all women whose pregnancy has caused disgrace. May they find the support they need so disgrace can be turned into life.
If we venerate the people in these stories we lose perspective of their significance. Mary is not some superhuman who floats above the ancient world with a glowing halo over her head. She is a vulnerable teenage girl navigating the difficulties of life. The same is true of Elizabeth, she is a woman wounded by the world who finds a mysterious blessing late in life. Nothing about these miracles will protect them from future pain.
Mary and Elizabeth remind us Christmas is about God entering the human condition to turn our death into life. It’s an invitation to believe so all might find the fulfillment of joy.
Click to read: Luke 1: 39-45
Reflection Questions: How would you describe the joy of an expecting mother? Where have you experienced disgrace related to pregnancy or lack of pregnancy? How can grace transform these from death into life? What does it mean to your life that God works in the every day fabric of life?
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash.com and Drew Hays