Thursday, December 23, 2010

What to Expect from the Unexpected

This week, my thoughts (and our Gospel readings) have been filled with Elizabeth and Mary. On Tuesday afternoon, at Vision of Peace, I had the immense pleasure of celebrating mass with Fr. Bob, truly one of the most Spirit-filled persons I have ever met. He challenged me, during his homily, to dig deeper, to ponder those months Mary and Elizabeth spent together, to consider the little conversations they shared, both expecting the unexpected.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were older, settled in their lives. They had likely made peace, long ago, with the fact that they were childless. I can imagine that they had their routines in place. Their life was a tidy one, simple and neat, ordinary and predictable.

I am always surprised at how harshly the angel treats Zechariah's questions. Gabriel is so much more understanding when Mary questions him. But, I wasn't there, and maybe there was a tone in his voice, or a tilt to his head, that displayed disbelief rather than wonder and confusion.

I try to imagine Elizabeth's response. Her husband is suddenly both deaf and mute. We know he can write, so I'm sure he must have written the whole story for her. I'm certain she wants to believe him, but it all seems so strange. How can I bear a child at this late age? How will I raise this child? What if we don't live long enough to see the child to adulthood? Do I have the energy and stamina to chase a toddler at this stage in the game?

I wonder if Elizabeth ever thought, especially after Mary shared her story of Gabriel's asking for her cooperation, "why didn't I get a choice?"

I imagine Mary and Elizabeth, sitting on the front steps of Elizabeth's house, late afternoon, burgeoning bellies. I hear their talk: the aches and pains of late pregnancy, Mary's long journey back to Nazareth, what to prepare for dinner that night. And, through it all, a wonder and a trust in this God who has given these two women unexpected pregnancies. What a comfort they must have been to each other! Both of them together, surprised by the power of God and the miracle of the lives growing within them.

I wonder what Elizabeth felt as she held her tiny newborn son, this unexpected child of her older years. Was she overwhelmed with fear and doubt? How could she be enough, do enough, raise this child to be who God intended? Or, was she calm, joy-filled and sure that the Lord had everything in hand, that it was all going to unfold according to His divine plan?

This morning, we heard that the word of John's birth, and Zechariah's miraculous recovery, spread through the hill country of Judea. “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” (Lk. 1:66)

It was right that the people throughout Judea 2,000 years ago asked this question, for surely the hand of God was with John the Baptist.

And, just a surely, the hand of God is with us today. What, then, will our lives be?

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. I think that because Zacharias asked for a sign and didn't just believe the words of the angel, that he was stricken dumb, and maybe that is the sign he asked for. Mary believed right away, she only asked how it could happen since she was a virgin.

    My favorite part of this story is when Mary praises God in verses 46-55. It is so beautiful.