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 her cousin Elizabeth.
My middle name is Elizabeth. So’s my confirmation name. That repetition made for a double-barrelled mouthful of a warning whenever I got in “using-your-full-name-for-more-authority” trouble with the parents.
It also means that when, on feast days such as the Assumption (celebrated on Monday), any gospel story containing St Elizabeth is read out, my imagination is immediately whetted. I want details. I want rich portraiture. I want to enter into my spiritual namesake’s experience of reality.
What was Elizabeth doing when Mary arrived that afternoon? Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, she decides to remove herself from society upon finding out she’s pregnant, overjoyed by her changed circumstances. But as the months progressed, what did her day-to-day life look like? What did that day look like?
Perhaps she was carrying out household chores, dutifully fulfilling the mundane tasks of an ordinary, unglamorous day.
Maybe she was fast asleep, her frail body worn out from the burden of childbearing at a late stage in life.
She might have been praying. She might have been talking to a friend. She might have been stressed about her workload, or anxious about the future, or bored by the endless cycle of waiting for new life to arrive.
And Mary showed up in that moment. Jesus showed up in that moment. When Mary entered that house, she carried with her the hope and the joy that only God’s presence could bring. She walked into Elizabeth’s life that afternoon, and all of a sudden a simple conversation between two friends became a song of praise that echoes down the ages.
What does today look like for me?
Some days don’t feel like a story worth telling. When the busy reality of a heavy workload wedges my time into Google-calendar boxes and my energy into rationed packages, my faith life can become the mere dutiful fulfilment of another mundane task. Some days, in spite of the joy that first hit me when God gave me a blessing to carry, I’m caught up in anxious thoughts, restlessness and exhaustion.
It’s into those moments that Jesus bursts, ready to begin an encounter and a conversation that will renew my heart in praise.
When Mary greeted her, Elizabeth forgot her own beautiful burden. She didn’t recall the barrenness of her past, or the heavy blessings of that day, or anything that lay ahead. She was simply present with the gift of God in front of her, aware that something bigger and more beautiful was being accomplished than she had realized.
When faith pierces the superficialities of our life, it reminds us that God is doing great things.
Elizabeth became aware that God chose to enter her world. Recognition and hope stirred within her. And she marvelled at the reality that He wanted to come and stay in her home for months to come.
Like Elizabeth, we have the chance to become aware of the ridiculous, wonderful and simple ways God bursts into our lives to renew our joy.
The Feast of the Assumption – and the beautiful scriptures the Church chooses to celebrate this day – gives us that opportunity to marvel at the reality of God’s presence within us and around us.
Mary was received, body and soul, into the arms of the God whose presence she carried in her own arms and her own womb to bring light and joy to others.
This scripture isn’t just the story of once-upon-a-long-long-time-ago. It’s the story of God becoming incarnate in our lives, in the reality we’re living, so he can raise us up out of the ordinary into the arms of heaven.
“Holy is His name,” Mary told Elizabeth. And His name is Emmanuel. God with us.
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 voice, “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. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
This reflection was written by Kate, who has started at UQ this semester, studying a Bachelor of Arts. She is from New Zealand, enjoys praying with Lectio Divina and owns a bike named Audrey.