Feeling Movements of Life

Posted in: Homilies

December 20, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

December 20, 2015
Luke 2:39-45
Fr. George Smiga

As far as I can tell, today’s gospel is the only scene in any of the gospels where two women speak to one another without an adult male being present. This alone should peak our curiosity. So let’s look at this gospel scene more carefully.

The two women are Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. Both women are pregnant: Mary with Jesus and Elizabeth with John the Baptist. But it is really Elizabeth on which this scene centers. Earlier in the gospel the angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth who was advanced in age and unable to have children, was now pregnant and in her sixth month. You can imagine in these circumstances that Elizabeth had many fears about her pregnancy. The worries of every mother were intensified in her case. Would her baby live? Would he be healthy? Would she be able to deliver him successfully? Indeed, it was probably in light of these fears that Mary set out in haste to be with her cousin during this difficult pregnancy. Now all these details are important to understand when we come to the central focus of this scene. That focus is a movement.  It is the movement of John the Baptist in his mother’s womb. It is a movement that only a mother can feel, and it is very likely that it was at Mary’s visit that Elizabeth first felt her child move within her.

Now at this point there should really be a mother here giving this homily because only a mother can describe what it feels like to have life move within you. Only a mother can describe the joy in knowing that your baby is alive—not because your body is changing, or not because a doctor told you so, but because you can feel that life moving in your very being. This visitation story, then, is a story of hope. It tells us that in uncertain and difficult circumstances, we can have reason to trust that things will turn out well because of small but certain movements of life within us.

We all have problems in our families and we often focus on them. We worry about our children, about our parents, about our spouse. But this gospel tells us that amid these valid concerns, we should wait for and identify movements of life. Who is the person in our family that always makes us smile? When have we been proud of what one of our children has accomplished? When have we felt concern and help from someone who loves us? We should not pass over these movements of life. We should treasure them as a mother who is pregnant recognizes the movement of life within her and sees it as a sign that the promise of the future is coming to fulfillment. Stirrings of life in our family and in our world are God’s way of reminding us that goodness is growing around us and within us. It is our role, then, to feel that goodness and nurture it until the day when God brings it to birth.

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