Solemnity of John the Baptist
This Sunday’s gospel reading has drawn my attention to the woman, Elizabeth, in Luke’s account, chapter 1 verses 57-66, 80. How the Lord had shown her and Zechariah great mercy and how their relatives and friends shared their joy at the birth of their son, John. This is the woman whose child leaped for joy in her womb when her cousin Mary greeted her on her visit as told earlier in chapter one of Luke’s gospel. The strength of character of Elizabeth implied in this passage is that of her being a woman and the joy of her being a mother. The beautiful words in the first reading in Isaiah 49, “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name”, reminds me of the sacredness of life from beginning to end and the gift each life has. The steadfastness of Elizabeth allows the call of the Lord to come into being.
These days at my work there is a lot of talk on babies as two members of staff are expecting their first child and another having had her third. Other staff members, who have children, smile and share the joy and I simply listen, fascinated at what it must be like and recall the delight I experienced at becoming an aunt or my mother’s memories of being pregnant with me and the day I was born. The strength and love of my mother and of these expectant mothers in my midst today and that of Elizabeth seem like sacred gifts. Perhaps because of the recent referendum with us in the Republic of Ireland this gospel passage is more poignant for me this time as it rejoices at the gift of a woman becoming a mother, her soundness of spirit, her stability and her faith that sees that God is with her, in the very centre of it all. Elizabeth holds dear the gift of this new life that she believes is called forth to live for God. She remembers the command of God and acknowledges what God has done for them. Elizabeth, who nourished the child within her for the pregnancy gave the child life and will watch as the child is to grow and become strong in spirit, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; For the Lord’s hand was with him”. For whenever we look at a child we see hope and goodness in what is to be. I pray to Elizabeth to be our strength, to be our hope, to be our backbone and to guide us to nourish life, life to live for and in God.
Sr Edel Murphy OP