I’m a guy and sometimes, I just don’t get it. I miss it altogether. It just goes right over my head. That’s how I feel sometimes when I read sacred Scripture, let alone living life.
This really hit me Friday morning when I was praying over the Gospel for today. These two women, these two incredible women, Elizabeth and Mary, were real. They lived in a time of Roman occupation. Mary was from Nazareth. We’re not quite sure where Elizabeth lived with her husband Zachariah. It’s to that town in the hill country of Judah, where Mary went in haste. In haste…
People tell often tell me that I walk too fast. Just this past Thursday, I had to slow down a few times and wait for the other folks who were with me. I like to walk fast. It invigorates me. Plus it gets me were want to go, quicker. But I can miss things along the way.
Haste can get me in trouble, especially when I don’t take time to look where I’m going. I’ve had more than enough trips and falls to alert me, as the saying goes, “Haste makes waste.”
Friday morning, the Lord slowed me down and helped me to see, yet again. I simply want to share a few of the highlights.
Our Gospel is much more than some simple story. Not only are the existence of Elizabeth and Mary historical, but Luke writes in symbol which points beyond, to a deeper meaning and a deeper truth. In so doing, this encounter invites us into an unfolding mystery of God’s plan.
Luke has already introduced the characters of this scene. Zachariah, Elizabeth’s husband, represents a divinely silenced priesthood: he and his wife symbolize the best of a waning phase of Israel’s history. They are the Abraham and Sarah of their day. God is working wonders for and with them through the son in Elizabeth’s aged womb.
Mary is the mother of the new covenant. Her pregnancy has nothing to do with human plans. Through her, God is doing something entirely new.
This new mystery is good news for the old, for Luke tells us that Elizabeth’s babe lept in her womb with joy when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting. Just as the prophet Jeremiah had been called before his birth, John first rejoiced in the Savior from his mother’s womb. John is the herald, the link between the Old Testament promise and the new covenant fulfillment in Jesus, the babe in Mary’s womb.
Elizabeth acted like a prophet in her own right. She pronounces the first three Beatitudes of the gospel tradition: “blessed are you;” “blessed the fruit of your womb;” and the most important of all, “blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Elizabeth’s first two Beatitudes repeat the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary. The third beatitude is the hinge connecting the old and new covenants.
Israel’s vocation and struggle through the centuries had been to believe that God’s promise would be fulfilled, to believe in God enough, in order to give themselves over to God’s plan and let go of their own.
Mary did trust, enough. She committed herself whole and entire to God’s promise when she responded, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”
These two women, these two seemingly ordinary women were chosen by God and said “yes” to God’s plan, not their own, and it has made all the difference.
What about you and me? Can we allow ourselves to be swept up in the euphoria of an encounter with God in and through one another? Yes, with our spouse, our children, our families, our co-workers, our fellow students, our neighbors and those who we meet on the street.
Can we allow ourselves to be caught up in God’s divine drama of what God has done and is doing in our lives right now?
Can we, like Elizabeth and Mary be open to new life, to God’s divine action in our daily lives, to what God wants to do and not merely to what we want to do?
The world gives us every reason not to believe in God and God’s unconditional love for us. Our world is filled with so many distractions, fakery, illusion and lies that keep us from truly understanding and believing in the divine mystery for each of us.
Yet these two women, Elizabeth and Mary give us every reason to believe.
Will we allow ourselves, these final two days of Advent, to surrender to God’s plan, to God’s desire to encounter us anew in the midst of the ordinariness of our everyday lives?
Will we embrace the blessedness of Emmanuel, God-with-us and not succumb to the empty, mundane and meaningless “happy holidays” that the world wants to pawn off on us as what we really need and desire?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see mommy kissing Santa Claus or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
No, I want to delight in the leaping babe in the womb of Elizabeth and her embrace of Mary and the child in her womb, he who would become the Savior of the world.
Why? Because nothing else will do. Nothing else will suffice. No one else will save us, but Jesus.
“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Thank you Elizabeth. Thank you Mary.