Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
Mary set out and went with haste.
What must have been going through Mary’s mind? Immediately preceding the opening of today’s reading we hear Mary uttering these words of total dedication to God: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Then, having heard, received and accepted God’s call to be the bearer of the boy who will be called the Son of God, the angel left her. Mary’s mind must have suddenly filled with so many questions …
When couples discover that they are to become parents their worlds are turned upside down by the conflicting emotions of joy and apprehension. They begin making plans, they talk and they dream. But, this was not to be the case for Mary. She was not married and her pregnancy could lead to the violent death of stoning. Furthermore, Mary’s pregnancy was not only unexpected and inexplicable, it was also miraculous. How could she be pregnant? As she declared to the angel: How can this be, since I am a virgin? As the angel departed from her, that very real and convincing angel, Mary must have had questions and, as her very human mind will have realized, no one she could talk to.
But, of course, Mary was not alone. The angel had spoken of another miraculous birth. Gabriel had told her of the pregnancy of her elderly childless relative, Elizabeth. There was someone else who might understand, who might believe her. Is it any wonder that Mary set out and went with haste?
It must have been a great relief to find that Elizabeth really was pregnant, just as it must have been thrilling to hear her elderly relative exclaim (before there had been any opportunity for explanation): Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Unlike Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, Mary had not expressed doubt, only acceptance, but she still must have felt great relief at hearing Elizabeth’s words of greeting.
So, what about us? Every moment of every day God is wanting us to set aside human ambition and hopes, and listen to what he has planned for us. Every day we dismiss that call because of doubt, uncertainty, suspicion and incredulity. Why don’t we just give ourselves a treat this Christmas? Why don’t we join Mary in saying: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Then let us marvel at God’s coming into the world … through us.