September 30, 2005

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Expectant mothers share a sacred bond

All mothers share a sacred bond. Their relationship has a deep nature that I, as a man, can never experience, but one that I and everyone else should always revere. For it is through mothers that God brings forth new life, an immortal soul, the very continuation of our human race.

Yes, fathers have a key part to play in the drama of the passing on of life. In light of this, expectant mothers may perhaps feel their common bond more intensely than mothers whose children are already born.

Although I can only observe this relationship from the outside, sacred Scripture gives me a close glimpse of two expectant mothers who rejoiced in the blessings God gave them in their motherhood and in the children they bore.

I am referring here to the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her kinswoman, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. The fact that the conceiving of new life in both these women was miraculous should not deter us from making connections between them and mothers of all other times. The creation of a new person in the womb of any mother is always a miracle.

Reflecting on the beautiful interplay between Mary and Elizabeth could be the subject of an entire book. And so in this column, I’ll only focus on a couple of facets.

When Mary learned from the angel that she was to conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, she was also told of Elizabeth’s wondrous conception of a child as a confirmation that God also had great plans for her. Soon after assenting to God’s will, Mary set out to visit Elizabeth.

There were many things she could have done in response to the angel’s words to her. But she made a relatively long trip (for a young woman at that time) from her home in Galilee to the Judean hill country to visit Elizabeth.

Perhaps she knew deep down in her own flesh that the bond that she already had through blood with her kinswoman was now much deeper. And so she wanted to go and see her at once.

Maybe one of the purposes of this deep relationship between mothers, especially expectant ones, is that it helps them come to grips with the enormous changes happening in their lives because of the children growing in their wombs. We are told of the first words that Mary and Elizabeth shared, but I suspect that over the three months of the visit, they had many long conversations about the wonders that God was working in their lives and the impact of these miracles on them from day-to-day.

I also suspect that much of their talks were filled with joy, as that first conversation appears to us. Here were two expectant mothers meeting. Before they even spoke, they intuitively knew that each was brimming over with wonder and awe. And so we see Elizabeth not just speaking to Mary as we would in any ordinary conversation.

She “cried out in a loud voice” and sang the praises of Mary and the baby in her womb (Lk 1:42). Mary, in turn, spoke words that have reverberated down through the ages, praising God who “looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” and prophesying that “from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).

These two women knew deeply how much God was at the heart of the miracle of new life growing in their wombs. And they came together to revel in that wonder.

On this Respect Life Sunday, it would be a good thing for us to consider how we can nurture similarly fruitful relationships between mothers, especially those whose children are yet to be born. †


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