After the angel Gabriel delivers God's almighty message and request to the handmaiden, he also informs her that her cousin Elizabeth, who is "getting on" in years as we would say, is also "with child" even unto her barren time.
Mary, filled with joy, thanksgiving, and (I'm sure) a bit of trepidation of what her own future would hold when this "news" got out, rises up and heads straight for her cousin's home; knowing that she would be grateful of some help.
Many times, as we ponder this story, we focus upon one or two things:
1) The miracle of St. John the Baptist in his mother's womb. Elizabeth was well past child-bearing age and yet the Lord, the Giver of Life, blessed her with a child.
2) The kindness and compassion of the Mother of Jesus. Here, having just found out the most shocking, wonderful, frightening, and miraculous news of her own life, she reaches out and goes to help another in need.
In my own reflection on these beautiful passages in Scripture, there is another thought that comes to my mind. It is one that brings me great comfort. It is one that reminds me that our Father in Heaven is a loving, caring, and tangible God. He interacts with us and communicates His love to us through many means; including our friends and family.
Have you ever noticed or considered, that not only did Mary help Elizabeth, but Elizabeth helped Mary?
Imagine, for a moment, how confused (though trusting) and worried (though trusting) Mary must have been after the angel Gabriel's magnificent visit. At some point, she must have wondered, "Did this really just happen to me? Am I really going to have a Son that has been conceived by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit?"
As I mentioned earlier, our God is a loving God. He does not want us to worry. And, when we are unsure of ourselves or perplexed about something, He often sends us a sign or encouraging word through earthly means so that we are reassured, validated in our thoughts, and comforted in the mission of our state in life.
Elizabeth greets Mary immediately with these words: "How is it, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
Isn't that wonderful?
If Mary did have any doubt at all, God relieves it for her in this moment by confirming everything she thinks the angel said to her; for here is another person, her cousin, her family; who is many, many miles from her home, and yet, who knew that she (Mary) was with child and that this child was the Lord!
It is the same in our own lives if we open the eyes of our hearts to see things clearly. Often, when we reach out to do unto others, it is we who are served in some way.
God will speak to us through our kind acts, or He will send us validation through the word of a friend, a phone call, a passage in a book, or even a few lines of a song.
Mary went to help Elizabeth, yes. But in so doing, it is she who was helped the most. She was given strength and confidence for the once-in-a-lifetime mission that was unfolding before her. She was not alone, and God let her know that.
Mary is not unaware of the great gift God bestows upon her in visiting her cousin; for as soon as Elizabeth exclaims her wondrous words, Mary answers with her beautiful Canticle of thanksgiving. We find that in Luke 1:46-56.
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
First Published on CatholicMom.com, 2011 — Judy Dudich