Summary: Elizabeth is Mary’s older relative, yet she considers it an honor that Mary should visit her. She even calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” And so the Church has called Mary “Theotokos,” which means the bearer of God.
We are on the cusp of Christmas. In less than a week, we will marvel at the mystery of our Lord’s incarnation, of His taking on our humanity to save us. We are in a time of expectation; we are in Advent. It’s much like being pregnant, where a mother eagerly awaits and watches for the time of delivery.
In the Scriptures, God’s links His promise of salvation to pregnancy. The first link mentioned is in Genesis. That’s where God promised a Savior from a Descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15). That begins the sequence of childbirth that extends throughout the Old Testament, reaching its fulfillment in the Virgin Mary.
Isaiah prophesied, “The virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a Son” (Isaiah 7:14). Micah foretold, “So He will give Israel up until the time when a woman in labor has a Child” (Micah 5:3). The Old Testament is clear--God would save the world would from sin and death through the birth of His Son.
Today, our Gospel reading tells us of two pregnant women meeting in the hill country of Judea. They are relatives, cousins. One woman, Elizabeth, is well past child-bearing age--and yet she is pregnant. The other, Mary, is but a teenager, probably about 14. Elizabeth is six months pregnant, carrying John the Baptizer in her womb, the prophet and forerunner of Christ. Mary, although a virgin, is newly pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Yes, both are pregnant by the power of God’s Word. And they are living proof that “with God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37).
So Mary went to visit Elizabeth. As soon as the sound of Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears, the baby in her womb jumped for joy, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. What a moment! The word from Mary caused baby John to leap for joy. There he was, a fetus, barely six months old in his mother’s womb, not yet born, and already he was preaching Christ!
Who says that babies can’t believe? And who would ever dare say that unborn children don’t benefit from being in church and hearing the Word? If Mary’s greeting filled the baby Baptizer with joy, and his mother with the Holy Spirit, how much more will the voice of the living Christ bring life and joy to the unborn and to their mothers?
Every pregnant mother, or mother-to-be, hear this: being in the Liturgy, hearing the Word, and eating and drinking the Sacrament are to be part of your child’s prenatal care. At home, read and speak the Word of Christ aloud to your child within you. Pray for him or her. Who says that an unborn child does not benefit from the sound of God’s Word? The prophet of Jesus, John the Baptizer, tells us otherwise!
So there they were. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, blesses Mary and her holy Child. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Notice what Elizabeth doesn’t say. She doesn’t say that Mary is simply one whom God has blessed. No, Mary is blessed among ALL women. If Jesus is to be the most-important man in your life--and He should be!--than Mary should be the most-important woman. For in the entire history of humankind, only she is so blessed among women!
Although Elizabeth is her older relative, she considers it an honor, an act of grace and kindness, that Mary should visit her. She even calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” And so the Church has called Mary “Theotokos,” which means the one who bears God in her womb. Mary is the bearer of the eternal Word, the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God.
Mary is the doorway through whom God entered our world. She is the chosen and honored instrument of Christ’s incarnation, through whom the Son of God received His body that He might offer it for the life of the world. That’s why Mary is blessed among women and even all generations. That’s why, to this day, we are to honor Mary because of what God has brought about through her.
Mary shows us what happens when God’s Word has its way with someone. She was filled with the Spirit and the Word of God. She believed God. She trusted His Word. And from such trust in God’s Word, she said “yes” to God’s plan. She agreed to the impossible task of being the virgin mother of the world’s Savior.
Mary is a picture of God’s grace--that God should love us in such a special way that He would send His Son to be born of such a mother. God humbled Himself even to need a teenaged mother for nourishment and care, to be diapered and bathed by her, even though He is her God and Savior.