Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dec. 21, 2016: Wednesday, 4th Week of Advent A

Dec. 21, 2016: Wednesday, 4th Week of Advent A

Blessed Among Women

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” —Luke 1: 39– 42

Mary is a wonderful example of a blessed disciple in action. Mary’s own pregnancy does not keep her from going to help Elizabeth in her time of need. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth has prophetic insight into the uniqueness of Mary’s motherhood. Not only does she realize that Mary is pregnant, but she understands that Mary has become the Mother of Israel’s Messiah. In awe over the mystery taking place in Mary’s womb, Elizabeth, in extraordinary fashion, honors her younger kinswoman and acknowledges her as “the mother of my Lord” and “blessed among women.”

Let us consider what these titles would have meant in ancient Judaism. “My Lord” was a court expression given to honor the anointed king (see, for example, 2 Samuel 24: 21; Psalm 110: 1). Thus, when Elizabeth addresses Mary as “the mother of my Lord,” she is recognizing her as the royal mother of Israel’s Messiah. And this is no small honor, for as the mother of the King, Mary would be seen as the queen in her Son’s kingdom. In the ancient kingdom of Judah, the queenship was given not to the king’s wife but to the king’s mother. And significantly, the Queen Mother served as an advocate for the people who brought their petitions to her, and she would present them to the king (1 Kings 2: 13– 20). This background sheds light on Mary’s intercessory role in the Church. As the Queen Mother in her Son’s kingdom, Mary serves as an advocate bringing our petitions to King Jesus.

Next, the description “blessed among women” would bring to mind the Old Testament heroines Jael and Judith. After Jael defeated a pagan general who was oppressing God’s people, the prophetess Deborah proclaimed, “Most blessed of women be Jael” (Judges 5: 24). Similarly, when Judith defeated a pagan commander who was attempting to overtake a Jewish town, Uzziah said to her: “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth” (Judith 13: 18). Jael and Judith were blessed specifically because the Lord used them to rescue his people from the attacks of their enemies.

Standing in this tradition, Mary, too, will be instrumental in God’s plan for saving Israel. However, Mary’s role has one crucial difference from those of these warrior women of old. Mary won’t be engaging in a physical battle. Rather, she will participate in God’s saving plan through the Son she is carrying in her womb.

Elizabeth tells Mary that she is “blessed among women” because “blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary is blessed because she will bear Israel’s Messiah, and he will be the one to accomplish God’s ultimate plan of salvation.

For Reflection
How is my relationship with Mary, our Queen Mother? What petitions could I bring to her, knowing she is a loving intercessor for us with her Son, Jesus?

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.