(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 is a special feast day for Mary. In the middle of the summer, we stop to celebrate how Mary participates in the plan of God. We know that God chooses Mary to be the mother of Jesus, and sends a messenger, the angel Gabriel, to tell her the plan. Mary 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. It is a very strange plan. In the Gospel for this Sunday, the angel has gone, and Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
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.
Elizabeth is old. She has never been able to have children. This has been a great sorrow for her and her husband Zechariah. Now though, when she has passed 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 son 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. Elizabeth knows that Mary is pregnant, and she knows also that God is with this baby in a particular way.
"the mother of my Lord comes to me"
Elizabeth knows 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.
But this feast day is not about the Holy Spirit, is it? It is not Elizabeth's feast day, either. It is a feast day for Mary. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, shows us why.
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. The plan of God that seems so ridiculously impossible, requires Mary to believe. What if Mary did not believe?
What if she had said, "It is impossible for me to have a child--I am not yet married to Joseph"?
What if she had said, "How can any of this be true?"
What if Mary had said, "No"?
No, thank-you. This is crazy. Impossible.
Where would we be then?
Mary is blessed because she says "Yes."
Mary is blessed because she believes that nothing will be impossible with God.
And so we pray, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.