Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a
"Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years."
Luke 1: 6 – 7
I remember talking to several couples who were trying to have children. When a couple becomes aware that they will not be able to conceive and bear children easily, they seem to follow a common path. First, they try to "fix" it themselves. After a few months, they realize that’s not working. Then, one of them, usually the wife, will talk about the "problem" with family members or best friends. The couple will get all kinds of advice, from diets to folklore remedies. With each passing month and year, the seriousness of the situation becomes clear. Then, there are the visits to the doctors, clinics and "new therapies." By this time, God enters the picture. Those who are religious will begin novenas, light candles or make special promises to God or to the Blessed Virgin Mary or to a favorite saint to help them conceive. Sometimes, they will even talk to a priest or a religious. As one can imagine, a childless marriage can cause many stresses in the relationship. Each spouse wonders, "Whose fault is it?"
As we get ready for Christmas and the miraculous birth of the Child Jesus to the Virgin Mary in a poor stable in Bethlehem, we are given some Scripture accounts of women who were thought to be barren and who suddenly became pregnant. Today’s first reading is about the birth of Samson. He is born to a childless couple. He becomes a savior to the people of Israel. This theme of God giving children to barren wives in the Hebrew Scriptures is woven throughout Salvation History. "For nothing will be impossible for God."
The Gospel reading also is a story of a barren wife. This time it is Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth. This account is interesting because the husband, Zachariah, receives the news first. It seems that he had long lost the hope of having children. His faith is not strong enough to believe that all things are possible for God. Zachariah’s response becomes our story every time we doubt that God is really in charge of our life. We may think that we are in control. If we are living a barren life today, a life that is lifeless and meaningless, it does not mean that we should lose hope. Just because we cannot see how new life is possible in our barren condition does not mean that God cannot make new life happen!
We now remember Elizabeth’s words to Mary: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." Let us put our faith and trust in the Word Made Flesh, the Word that God speaks to us today!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.