Song of Songs 2:8-14,
or Zephaniah 3:14-18
Psalm 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21
Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth…. and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit…said, …”Blessed are you who believed…” Excerpted from Luke 1:39-45
The story told in today’s gospel is one read and celebrated again and again. Mary, with child, travels to her elder cousin Elizabeth’s—and, the child in Elizabeth’s womb “jumps with joy” in recognition of who it is that Mary carries.
When you think of that story, what do you see? Do we see the idealized, adored, and piously obedient Mary, the Mother of God? Do we forget that Mary was a person, who lived and breathed and feared and doubted as all humans do? Do we forget that at the point of this story, Mary is but a young girl—most certainly not from the affluent classes and also most certainly pregnant out of wedlock in a culture that had absolutely no tolerance for such “behavior?”
If you forget as I do, I think we may be missing some of what the Spirit would have us know.
What happens when we recognize the humanity of this woman? What do we see and hear if we put ourselves in her shoes? For me, it’s as if my vision explodes in rich color and tapestry. I feel Mary’s fear as well as her faith, I hear something like this—of course, in the vernacular of today:
“I am trying hard to live into this mystery that surrounds me—but it is HARD and extremely SCARY to do what God has asked of me. I feel a bit like I’ve jumped off a cliff…can I really do this? How? What will happen to me--to us--when others come to know? Will anyone really believe me when I tell them how this has come about? Yeah, right?!!
And, then, I find my cousin Elizabeth! She greets me with such joy and delight! She celebrates my courage and my faith!! She does not question, but KNOWS who I am and what I am to do. She envelops me in her arms—and I feel safe, warm, and begin to feel that maybe I can do this. My beloved Elizabeth--my friend, my cousin, my wise confidant--reminds me who I am to be and gives me the courage to do what I am called to do. In her embrace, I feel the arms of God holding me close. In her words and joy, I hear the voice of God reassuring my timid spirit and giving me strength I do not possess on my own.”
Wow! When I truly begin to contemplate the fullness of this story, I see and feel the presence of God in ways I did not before. And, I begin to see myself in the story. Though certainly not called to the feats that Mary was called, I too am called by God. I too have a mission to fulfill. And, I too have been fortunate to have an Elizabeth in my life to give me strength, courage, and faith. I too have an Elizabeth to call me to be who I was created to be.
Actually, as I reflect on my journey, I have had and continue to have many Elizabeths—people who over the course of my journey have called me to be who I am. Their names are different—there’s Jack, Kate, Joan, Tom, John, Michele, Nancy, Maryanne, Gail, Mary, Mary Ann, Rita, Ed, Pat, Chris, Ricardo, Maria Teresa, Greg, Gerry, Kathy, Wauneita, Shirley, Arlene, Sam, Virginia…and the list goes on. Each one has been a source of Grace in my life, each has reflected God’s love for me--God’s call to me. Some have been subtle, but always persistent. Others have explicitly called me with “remember who you are” or encouraged me with “you know you have to do what you have to do” when I wanted to find a safe, snuggly, warm place to hide. And, sometimes, I have been slow to recognize and feel God calling in their words, their touch. But, fortunately, God continues to be patient with me—and comes to me often in the Elizabeths who share my journey. And, then, I have been richly blessed—even in the midst of my own fear and trepidation.
Who are your Elizabeths? Are you listening? What are you being called to be? Is the time now? S-sh…God calling…
We are grateful to Shirley Scritchfield for her many years of faithful ministry in our Daily Reflections. After 20 years at Creighton University, Shirley is following God's call to Nebraska Methodist College, where she will be VP of Academic Affairs. Thank you, Shirley.
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