MARY VISITED ELIZABETH
(A biblical reflection on the FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year C] – 19 December 2021)
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-45
First Reading: Micah 5:1-4; Psalms: Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19; Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
The Scripture Text
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45 RSV)
The beautiful story of the visitation began after an angel informed Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Upon hearing the news that her relative, Elizabeth, was also expecting, Mary hurried off to visit her. The Gospels say Mary and Elizabeth were kinswomen, a term ancient Jews used to describe a variety of different relationships. Although popular tradition calls the two women cousins, there is nothing in Scripture to support this belief. However, because there is nothing to refute it either, we will never know the exact relationship between these two women.
In her greeting, Elizabeth says that both Mary and the fruit of her womb are blessed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”(Luke 1-42). The term “fruit of the womb” has an interesting history.
Because ancient people did not have the benefit of all the sophisticated medical equipment we have today, their understanding of the human reproductive system was rather primitive. They believed life was in the man’s sperm which, they reasoned, was like a seed. Just as the seed contained life within itself and just as this life emerged once someone planted the seed in the ground, the man had to plant the sperm in the woman’s womb. Therefore, they thought of the womb as the garden in which the seed would take root and grow. With all of this agricultural symbolism, the next logical step was for them to begin calling the baby “the fruit of the womb”. Thus, Jesus was the fruit of Mary’s womb.
Sometimes, Luke’s Gospel is called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit because it talks so much about how the Spirit is working in the world. At times, biblical scholars also call it the Gospel of Great Joy because the word “joy” appears so frequently. We find one of those occurrences in today’s Gospel reading in which Luke quotes Elizabeth as saying the baby in her womb was moved with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Clearly, Luke considered the birth of the Messiah a happy event.
Mary went to see Elizabeth to share the news of how God was working through her. How is God using us (you and I)? Share that news with someone this week.
Every Advent, we are invited to witness this dramatic moment. We come with the wounds and sins of a long year. Will we refrain from embracing the new, afraid of disappointment and frustration? Or will we imitate Elizabeth and joyfully welcome the Savior Jesus who has come among us?
Prayer: Lord God, I believe that You are all-powerful. Thank You for giving me the grace to see Your work in my life. Apparently Your gifts to me are all good things for me and my life as a disciple of Christ. Give me the courage that I may share Your good works in me with others I meet. Amen.
Jakarta, 18 December 2021
A Christian Pilgrim