Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary, Elizabeth, and the Holy Spirit

Yesterday was the Fourth Day of Advent. The Gospel lesson was Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Several things we can gain from this story, including the lovely words of the Ave Maria, Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” As I wrote a lesson on this passage last fall, I focused on the role of Elizabeth. In those days before the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered only certain people to prophesy, and when Elizabeth heard Mary coming, she was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (verse 41). By the Spirit’s power, Elizabeth preached the Gospel of Jesus before his birth! She recognized Mary as Jesus’ blessed mother. She interpreted her own physical discomfort as God’s sign.

Elizabeth was a prophet, in other words! She was a prophet for this purpose, in a long line of Hebrew prophets which, most believed, had ended centuries before. My question is: If the Spirit came to a person who previously had been perceived as disfavored by God (as childlessness was then believed to be), doesn’t the Spirit now comes to all kinds of persons, whether favored or disfavored in society? What might the Spirit be up to in our present world that might startle us?

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