The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 15 August 2021
Lectionary Readings: Rev. 11:19; 12:1-6.10; Ps. 45:10-12.16; 1 Cor.15:20-26; Lk. 1:39-56
Theme: “Blessed are you among women”
The Gospel for today looks at two pregnant women both carrying sons of promise. Both women have conceived miraculously. One woman, Elizabeth, is beyond child-bearing age while the other, Mary, a very young woman, has conceived by God’s power. When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, the sign he gave her that he was from God was that her cousin, Elizabeth had conceived in her old age showing that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1: 38).
The First Testament has many stories of women conceiving ‘miraculously’. Sarah, our Mother in faith, was the first to be recorded. I should like to hold on to this story as we explore the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth.
The meeting between these two cousins is filled with the joy of what pregnancy should bring. The Holy Spirit, the inspirer, is present and Elizabeth thus recognizes Mary: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (v. 42). We read in Judges 5:24 in the Song of Deborah (the only female Judge who was also a prophet): “Most blessed among women is Jael, The wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed is she among women in tents.” Jael saved the Israelites from Sisera, the cruel man of war (Jgs. 4 and 5).
Elizabeth further reveals to Mary that the child she is carrying in her womb recognized the child whom Mary is carrying, and she praises Mary’s faith in the fulfillment of God’s promises through her (vv.44-45).
I should like to look more deeply at the relationship between these two women. When Mary had received the wonderful revelation from the Angel, she immediately set out ‘with haste’ to visit her cousin. There could be many reasons why Mary did this. We shall look at how they greet, respect, and accept each other before we even hazard a guess.
Mary arrives (the true Ark of the Covenant) and Elizabeth greets her as we have seen in verse 42. In the greeting Elizabeth utters nothing but praise, acceptance, and joy. She too is pregnant and she does not compare herself with Mary: ‘after all her husband is a priest serving in the Temple and she is much older and they have lived according to the Law much longer: why was she not chosen to be the mother of the Messiah?’
Mary is full of joy and love and places all her trust in the Lord her God who has chosen her, unworthy as she is: “My soul magnifies the Lord, / …for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”
We recall the story of Sarah and Hagar (Gen 16) and how firstly, Hagar, once pregnant, flaunted herself in front of her mistress and was treated badly, and thus she ran away. Hagar meets the Angel of the Lord and she too receives promises for her son. She is told: “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” (v.9) Isaac, the son of promise, who is now Ishmael’s younger half-brother, is born to Sarah. Hagar and her son are banished because Sarah does not want her son to share his inheritance with the Egyptian slave’s son (Gen. 21:1-21).
Luke has based the ‘Magnificat’ on the prayer of Hannah who was childless and was mocked by her husband, Elkanah’s second wife, Peninnah who had children. Hannah is promised a child through Eli, the priest, who was in attendance and saw her praying (1 Sam. 1; 1-2:11). When she comes to offer her son, her prayer is: “My heart exults in the Lord; /my strength is exalted in my God.”
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What could Mary’s reasons have been for visiting Elizabeth? 2. This story, above all others, shows me how women need to minister to women. How am I following this example?
Bibliography: Bible Translations: NKJV and NRSV
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Chellew,South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008