Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country of Judah where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. -Luke 1:39
Having learned from the angel that she will give birth to the Son of God, Mary set out to visit her pregnant relative, Elizabeth. Elizabeth greets Mary with honor even though Mary is an unmarried pregnant woman and could be socially ostracized, socially judged and shamed. Ellizabeth has experienced her own shame and exclusion. In the Hebrew culture of those times, a woman’s purpose in life was to bear children. Elizabeth was an elderly infertile wife that endured a lifetime of shame and exclusion. Elizabeth, being miraculously pregnant rejoices. “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” (Luke 1:25) (Adapted from the Working preacher, Judith Jones, Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C, December 20, 2015, p.2)
Both Mary and Elizabeth bestowed honor and blessings upon each other. They shower each other with inclusive love and acceptance. They both acknowledge God’s love at work even though they are shamed by their society. This Gospel reading should cause us to stop and ponder during this Advent season. Daily news broadcasts show people hating Jews, Palestinians and others causing harm and death. Look around, is God working through people that society exclude and treat as shameful? What is God doing through the vulnerable and forsaken in our society? How will we respond to poor people on the street corner begging for money to buy food?
May we, like Elizabeth and Mary, honor and bless each other and all those that have been excluded from society and shamed. May we, like Elizabeth and Mary welcome the needy who show up on our doorstep. May we, like them become a community that cares, and loves and supports each other as we wait and hope for Jesus. (Adapted from the Working Preacher, Judith Jones, Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C, December 20, 2015, p.2)
Carl Middleton is a theologian/ethicist and a member of the Passionist Family.