21 December – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 1:39-45

We continue reading from Luke, picking up from yesterday’s text. In the last two days we’ve heard about the two annunciations – to Zechariah and to Mary – and about the birth of two special children, John the Baptist and Jesus.

Obviously, both mothers, cousins to each other, must have been very excited about the birth of their first child. They were anxious to share together their joy and happiness.

In one way, it would make sense for Mary to visit Elizabeth, because the younger should visit the older. On the other hand, Elizabeth should be the one to visit, because Mary’s child was a person of such rank and dignity – God’s own Son. In a way, the story is more interested in the children than in the mothers. And Luke uses his Infancy Narrative as a vehicle to present, in advance, some of the characteristics of Jesus’ future life.

Here, it is the characteristic of service that he illustrates. Jesus later on will say:

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…
(Mark 10:45)

And so, still in his mother’s womb, he comes to visit his cousin, John, rather than wait at home to be visited.

The power of the Spirit is also much in evidence. John leaps in his mother’s womb at the very sound of Jesus’ voice. Elizabeth recognises this as the power of God in Jesus reaching out to her son. Elizabeth herself is also filled with the Spirit, and recognises in her young cousin the Mother of her Lord.

As we saw, the choice of the First Reading is interesting. It is taken from the Song of Solomon, a poem of the passionate love between two young people. It is a fitting expression of the love that should exist between Jesus and his followers, and between the followers themselves.

There is no such thing as a purely ‘spiritual’ love. True love literally ‘em-bodies’ the whole person – spirit, mind, emotion and body. Mary, filled with the Spirit, will soon break out into that wonderful hymn of praise that we call the Magnificat, a hymn that will proclaim the message of liberation Jesus will later deliver by word and action. We will see that tomorrow.

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