LECTIO: Reading and understanding the Word: Luke 1:39-45
Mary’s profound faith is expressed in her gestures of charity. The encounter between these two mothers is, above all, the encounter between the two sons. John, through his mother’s words, announces that Jesus is the Lord. This title is born among the Christians to express their faith in the Risen One. It is anticipated here, even before His Birth. Let us recall that Luke is a believer who had not known Christ personally but through faith. For him, Jesus is always “the Lord.”
Let us allow ourselves to be touched by the Word and prepare ourselves also to welcome Jesus in our midst this Christmas. In this way, we can pass Him on through our personal witness in our families, our Local Salesian Cooperator Centers, and our Past Pupil Federations.
39-40 She arose and went in haste
When Mary presents the difficulty she has in the face of the message she has heard, the angel responds to her in two different ways: on the one side, he assures her that her Son is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit and, on the other, he offers her as proof the sign that Elizabeth, who is aged, is expecting a son. (Lk. 1:34-37)
Mary accepts the sign without doubting and hurries to visit her cousin.
She leaves her home to go to the aid of a person who is in need of help. One hundred kilometers, more or less, lie between Nazareth and the hills of Judah.
Luke underlines Mary’s haste to give service: faithful Israel living outside the influence of the capital, in Nazareth of Galilee, goes to the aid of official Judaism: “Judah,” the name of the tribe in whose territory Jerusalem is found, the region in which the Son she bears within herself will one day be refused and condemned to death. (Lk. 1:39) Just as the angel “enters” into her home and “greets” her with the divine greeting, so Mary “enters into the home of Zechariah and greets Elizabeth.” From Woman to woman, from Woman with child to woman with child, from She who will be the Mother of God to she who will be the mother of the Precursor.
41 As soon as the greeting sounded in her ears, the baby leapt in her womb
Right from the start Luke joins the destiny of the Baptist with Jesus’, indicating, at the same time, the huge differences that there are. Upon receiving the visit of Jesus, already conceived, John rejoices in his mother’s womb; his joy has condensed in it all the joy of the authentic Israel who exults at the coming of the Messiah. He is the friend of the bridegroom, the best man, who exults for joy at the presence of the groom. (Jn. 3:29) Elizabeth exalts her cousin Mary, who, through her faith, has become the beginning of the new humanity of those saved.
42-44 Blessed are you and Blessed is the Fruit of your womb
Elizabeth represents the Old Testament, which is about to end; Mary, the New, which is just beginning. The Old Testament welcomes the New One with gratitude and trust, recognizing in it the gratuitous gift of God Who comes to bring fulfillment and to put into effect the hopes of the peoples.
God’s Good News reveals His Presence in one of the most natural happenings of human life: two mothers who visit each other to help one another.
Mary’s greeting communicated the Holy Spirit to Elizabeth and to her baby. The presence of the Holy Spirit in Elizabeth is translated into a powerful and prophetic cry which today forms part of the prayer to Mary – the Ave Maria.
Elizabeth speaks as a prophetess: she feels small and unworthy in the face of this visit from the one who carries within her womb the Lord of the Universe. Words and explanations are useless when one has entered into harmony with the Holy Spirit. She who carries within herself the one who will be the “greatest among those born of woman” declares blessed among all women the one who will be the Mather of the New Man, born of God. The harmony that is established between the two has put the Precursor into communication with the Messiah. The former is “filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb of his mother,” (Lk. 1:15) as had been promised by the angel to Zechariah; the Messiah is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, according to the annunciation to Mary. (Lk. 1:35)
Elizabeth is the symbol of the ancient traditions that have fully completed their course. Just as many of the ancient mothers of her people, she was called sterile and old. (Lk. 1:6-7) Closed off from its capability, man’s story is found to be arid. But God intervened and made it fecund. God made it possible for life to be born in Elizabeth’s womb. (Lk. 1:24) John, the fruit of her fecundity, will be the goal of all the paths possible to man. Man’s history is unable to go beyond this boundary. At the end of her possibilities, it is Elizabeth who bursts into praise before Mary and it is the Baptist who rejoices over the Christ.
God’s action in Mary has surpassed all man’s paths. Even if actuated by God, John’s birth was something completely human (he is the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah). Jesus’ conception is different; human possibilities are shown to be insufficient. For this reason, it is the Holy Spirit Who acts and, for this reason also, the One who is born is the very Son of God (Lk. 1:35). This means that God’s story has entered into our story, transforming it from within.
45 Blessed are you who believed!
Different from Zechariah, Mary believed in the message of the Lord and with her began the long list of those who would be the object of the Beatitudes. She allowed God’s Holy Spirit to become the master of her life and to make her fecund. She is blessed “among women” because in her the fecundity of all history, reflected in the maternity of the woman, has been assumed into the very “fecundity of God, who makes the Son be born in human form.” Everything is concluded with the “blessing of the Fruit of her womb”; i.e., in the Mystery of a faith that is open to welcoming Jesus. Here the ancient story truly comes to an end; here begins the new world of God’s benediction.
This is Luke’s message to the Community: believe in the Word of God for it has the power to make come true what it speaks to us. It is the Word that creates. It generates new life in the womb of a Virgin, in the womb of a poor and abandoned people who welcome it with faith. The praise that Elizabeth makes to Mary is completed by the praise that Jesus makes to his mother: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and put it in practice.” (Lk. 11:28)
A few questions
– Which part of the text did you like the most and which helped you to reflect?
– With what gestures, words, and images did Mary and Elizabeth express the discovery of God’s presence in their lives?
– What brought about the joy in the two women?
Let us ask pardon, give thanks, and ask the help of the Lord to be like Mary, ready to serve others because she knew how to listen to the Will of God.
“Blessed are you who believed.” “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice.”
(Luke 1:45; 11:28)
For Mary, faith is the source of charity: she goes to serve; what is faith the source of for me?
Whence and how does the joy of God’s presence come into my life and the life of my family and of the Association today?
1 Cfr. http://www.qumran2.net/indice.php?contesto=vangeli&libro=lc