“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”: To many Catholics, these lines are most familiar because they form part of the core of the Hail Mary. In the Gospel today, Mary goes to see her cousin Elizabeth, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. The two cousins greeted one another, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and Faith. Elizabeth on seeing Mary, feels the child in her womb “jump” for joy as it feels the nearness of salvation, and greets her with the words we are so familiar with.
Elizabeth does not simply speak these words; on the contrary, the text says that she “shouts them out with a loud voice.” Elizabeth then prophetically interprets this event, pointing away from her own motherhood to reveal the hidden identity of her visitor and the baby she carries. We too can “leap for joy,” because Jesus has come to us to forgive our sins. Elizabeth’s concluding words (“Blessed is she who believed… “) express a deeply Biblical and profoundly Jewish conviction: to trust in the Lord and in the Lord’s promises (no matter how seemingly impossible).
That is the epitome of that authentic Faith, which, for Luke, both Mary and Elizabeth supremely exemplify. Elizabeth, in turn, gives Mary assurance and confirmation to strengthen the young woman’s Faith in the early stages of her pilgrimage. She pronounces a blessing over Mary. Having been both blessed and favoured, Mary was now in a blessed and happy condition. Mary was blessed both because of her Faith and because of her bearing of the Christ-child. Thus, Mary becomes the true believer, model of Faith and first among her Son’s disciple-followers. Mary helps Elizabeth in her time of need and serves her till John is born — her perfect, loving, and sacrificial gift to Elizabeth.
This story teaches us the importance of mutual ministry. Each of us has a unique call, leaving us no reason for envy. Mary brought the Saviour; John recognized and identified Him; and Elizabeth gave prophecy, mediating God’s word by interpreting this event. These two women rejoice, and we are called to rejoice with them, for one reason and one reason only: because God loves us enough to act. God wants each of us, like Mary, to bear within us, and to carry to those around us, no one other than the Lord of life.