In those days 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.’
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.’
Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
A week ago, on the day after Pentecost, the Church entered the long ‘green’ season of Ordinary Time. I have always struggled with this. Surely, immediately after celebrating the coming of the promised Advocate, nothing can ever be ‘ordinary’ again. Today’s celebration of Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth emphasizes this point. Both Mary and Elizabeth were expecting children, special children, children destined to play their part in creating a new covenant between God and humanity.
As we know, Mary was visited by an angel and said, ‘Yes’, to playing her part in God’s plan. Mary, to many the first and most loyal of disciples, accepted the role of Theotokos, the God-bearer, the one chosen to be the mother of the Son of God: Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.
The story of Elizabeth’s pregnancy was no less amazing. Her husband, the priest Zechariah, also received an angelic visitation. Like Mary, Elizabeth had been chosen by God, chosen to bear the forerunner of Mary’s divine child. But Elizabeth was beyond the age and physical capability of child-bearing, and yet this was the choice that had been made by God: the virgin and the ageing woman were to play key roles in the Incarnation of the long-awaited Messiah.
What must it have felt like for those two vulnerable women? At which point did human uncertainty turn into the realization of the blindingly obvious? When did they stop seeking human explanations for their pregnancies and realize that they were experiencing a fulfilment of what [had been spoken] by the Lord? How must they have felt when they realized that they had truly been chosen by God?
The message of today’s reading centres on the reality of God’s call to all of us. Many people experience a moment of spiritual intimacy with God. They simply ‘know’ that they are being called to do a job by God. Sadly, and unlike Mary and Elizabeth, they convince themselves that that divine call is a flight of egocentric fantasy. Unlike Mary and Elizabeth, they say, ‘No’, to God and shrink back into those ordinary days that seem to deny God’s power and wisdom. Ordinary time becomes just that: ordinary and God-less.
But … we have received the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. The power of God is coursing through our very beings. Let us pray that we might never forget that, and that we might join Mary and Elizabeth in saying ‘Yes’, and not, ‘No’, or ‘Maybe’, to God. Let us journey on making this year’s season of Ordinary Time the most extra-ordinary ever.