(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
This Sunday we light all four candles on the Advent wreathe. The feast is almost here. It is almost time to celebrate God coming into the world as a baby, the same way each one of us is born. We have been listening to Gospel accounts of John the Baptist preparing the people for the coming of Jesus. In these accounts he is a grown man, waiting for Jesus—all grown-up, also—to come to be baptized. On this Sunday, though, we back up in time. We go back in our thinking to the moment John the Baptist first knows that Jesus is coming.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Mary has just been told by the angel Gabriel that she is going to have a child. She is not yet married, and there does not seem to be a father for this child. It hardly seems possible that Mary could become the mother of this baby.
Elizabeth is Mary's cousin. She is quite old and has never been able to have children. This has been a great sorrow for her and for her husband, Zechariah. Now though, when Elizabeth has grown past the age when it is possible for women to have children, Elizabeth finds herself pregnant. It should have been impossible, but God has a role for Elizabeth, Zechariah, and her child to play in the Plan. Nothing will be impossible with God.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
There is a lot happening here. The child inside of Elizabeth is leaping for joy, and Elizabeth begins to proclaim. She speaks words that are familiar to us. We pray them each time we pray the Hail Mary. And suddenly, Elizabeth seems to know many things. What does she know?
"Blessed are you among women"
Elizabeth knows that Mary that God is with Mary in a particular way.
"blessed is the fruit of your womb"
Elizabeth knows that there is a baby growing within Mary. How could she know that? Mary has not had time to tell Elizabeth, and the baby has not grown big enough to see, but Elizabeth knows. She knows that God is with this baby in a particular way, too.
"the mother of my Lord comes to me"
Elizabeth also seems to know who the baby is. "Lord" is the name given only to God. How can Elizabeth know all this???
Elizabeth knows things she could not possibly have learned on her own. Who has given her this knowledge? St. Luke, who records this Gospel, knows. He tells us:
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of God brings the gift of knowledge—knowing that can only come from God.
We have some knowledge now, too. By reflecting on the Word of God, we know something about the Holy Spirit. This is knowing that can only come from God. We have been given the same gift that Elizabeth has.
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, says,
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary believes the message of the angel Gabriel.
She says, yes, I will be part of God's Plan.
She says yes, and the Holy Spirit fills her womb with new, impossible life.
She says yes, and the Holy Spirit brings these these two pregnant women together.
She says yes, and the Holy Spirit surprises Elizabeth with knowledge of God.
She says yes, and inside these two women and their babies the Holy Spirit
dances with joy. Joy and more joy, bubbling up and spilling over.
We pray the words of the angel Gabriel:
because Mary says yes, and the Lord is with us, too.
We pray the words of Elizabeth:
because the Holy Spirit does so much when Mary says yes to God's Plan.
What will the Holy Spirit do when we say yes to God's Plan?