Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 20 December 2009

Mary and Elizabeth by Carl Heindrich Bloch

Mary and Elizabeth by Carl Heindrich Bloch

In the final trimester of a woman's pregnancy, the life quickens within her. The baby kicks and makes its presence felt in many ways.  Some mothers will tell you that near the time of birth, their baby seems to respond to external sounds.  So it makes perfect sense to read in the gospel today that the infant John within Elizabeth responds to the sound of Mary’s voice.  Mary’s greeting must have contained an exultancy that reached even the child carried in her relative’s womb.

The gospel today is all about the quickening of life.  Elizabeth's child leaps in her womb.  Mary carries within her the life that will be the light of the world.  What about us?  I think we can say that at this time of year the life quickens within us as well.  Using the sacrament of reconciliation, we seek to make our souls worthy of the Saviour. 

In the decorating our homes for Christmas, we make them shine with the joy of the season. Even in the ever-demanding tasks of shopping and catering, we are looking to be hosts, making a place where others may feel welcome.
In so many ways, there is life quickening within us, as we hurry towards the coming feast.

Life.  That mysterious force, always bringing the new out of the old, renewing and cleansing.  Life: bringing hope and vision.  In the northern hemisphere this is a cold time of year.  Nature around us seems dead.  We are aware of a few dry, rusting leaves, of stalks withered in the frost, of long nights and short days.  But around us new life comes, even while we least expect it.  Elizabeth finds the life leaping within her to greet the divine life that Mary is carrying.  And we too, as we hurry around the seasonal tasks, find, almost despite ourselves, that life leaps within us.  Friends get in touch once again.  Family ties are strengthened. Charities get generous support from many.  All this, because the Son of God draws near.  Life quickens.
In the gospel today, we end our reading with Elizabeth's words: "Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1.45).
Elizabeth, like the angel at Nazareth, hails Mary as carrying out the promise of God.  Blessed above all is Mary to whom is given this unique role and blessing.  And we share in the grace of this blessing if we, like Mary, live in the faith that God’s promises will be fulfilled.  Elizabeth speaks for us all.  We will be given the supreme gift of Emmanuel, God-with-us.  God’s promise is not just for Mary, but for each and every one of us.

Fr Terry Tastard is parish priest (pastor) of Holy Trinity, Brook Green, in the Hammersmith area of London.  His new book Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.

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