What a Woman!
#WhatAWoman is the podcast for December 23, 2018, the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Prophets don’t just fall from trees. They come from somewhere. Today, Fr. Mark investigates just where John gets his prophecy. It is not what you think. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke1 #Advent #Advent4 #Elizabeth #Mary #JohntheBaptist #Babies #Fulfillment #Scripture #HolySpirit
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (For our Deaf and H/H Brethren)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/23/2018 The 4th Sunday of Advent.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 1:39-45.
What if I told you that today I declare that we have long neglected a prophet in the New Testament? We all know John the Baptist; crazy man who went into the desert and then came from the desert wearing weird clothes and eating strange food. We already know him. My proclamation today is that the unrecognized prophet comes from a line of prophets. So, it is either Zechariah, John’s dad, or Elizabeth, John’s mom, who is this long neglected prophet. You may raise your eyebrows at me about this, but consider the roles of men and women in the Bible.
Christianity is a religion of gender complementarity, not hierarchy. The story of the rib taken from Adam, as I have pointed out previously, is not about who is first, but about how indispensable woman and man are to one another. Pregnancy and birth are areas where we believe there is a complementarity and beauty: a man has the seed and the woman has the egg. They join in a mutually self-giving activity that springs from, and is bathed in, love for one another. At least the nuptial union of man and woman should be the highest expression of love that spills forth into creation.
Like John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb, it was Rebekah who received the prophecy about Jacob and Esau when she felt the two struggle in her womb prenatally. She is the one to whom the Lord says that Esau, the eldest, will have a people who serve Jacob, the younger, in two great nations. This is in Genesis 25. So, it could be Elizabeth.
The neglected prophet could also be Zechariah, the high priest who is silenced by the angel Gabriel when he entered the sanctuary for the incense offering. He is the one who sings what we have come to call the ‘Benedictus’. I say the Benedictus nearly every day as part of morning prayer. Yet, Zechariah is the one who does not believe that Elizabeth can give birth and therefore is silenced by God until John the Baptist is born.
So, the neglected prophet is Elizabeth. She is the one we should declare as a prophet of God this Advent. Here is my case.
Tomorrow, we will gather for the Christmas Vigil and celebrate the story of the Angel coming to Mary and telling her she will be with child and then the reading will be about the birth. That story of Gabriel’s announcement, which we celebrate on March 25 and December 25 actually is placed in the Gospel of Luke just before this passage.
This means that Elizabeth is the first stop right after that announcement from the Angel. There was no snapchat, Instagram, whatsapp, texting, cell phones, etc. back then. Mary could not “OMG” her cousin via text. (What an “OMG” that would be!) Nor, could Mary and Joseph do their “Big Reveal” of the sonogram of little Jesus on facebook, announcing that “It’s a boy!” News did not travel fast back then. So, Elizabeth had no way of knowing that Mary was pregnant. She certainly had no knowledge of the status of the baby via cell phone conversation with Mary, giggling and gasping the whole time.
So, when Mary rides up on her donkey, Mary is the first to have news about the annunciation, the visitation of the angel and the overshadowing by the Holy Spirit. Mary is the messenger to Elizabeth as it would seem. Yet, that is not how this situation shakes out.
When Mary hits the door and Elizabeth just hears the greeting from the other room, the boy in her womb leapt, like Jacob and Esau in Rebekah, and the scriptures say that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives Elizabeth the prophecy. It is Elizabeth who “cries out” like prophets cry out. She cries out, “Blessed are you among women. Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth declares that Mary is “macarioi”, “blessed”, the same word Jesus will use on the Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes. Elizabeth is declaring that Mary is holy, set apart, special. Elizabeth knows what Gabriel told Mary before Mary can tell Elizabeth.
Elizabeth knows, like a prophet would know, that Mary is pregnant. As I have made the case, no one could have told her in advance and Mary did not snapchat her a picture of little footie socks on her belly to Elizabeth. Yet, Elizabeth knows. She is the one who will say that the baby in the womb is set apart, “macarioi”, “Blessed”, like Mary is blessed.
Elizabeth is the one who then declares that not only is Mary ‘blessed’ and the baby ‘blessed’, but it is Elizabeth who first declares that the baby in Mary’s womb is “the Lord.” “Lord” is a word that is reserved for only one person by a Jew. Elizabeth is a Jew. So, by declaring that the baby in Mary is “MY Lord”, she is declaring that Jesus is God. She makes this declaration first. It is Mary who will be the first to declare that Jesus has risen from the dead. Here, it is a woman who declares that Jesus is God, the Lord, before anyone else.
Finally, Elizabeth is the one who says that Mary is blessed because she said “Yes.” We never think that Mary could have said “no.” She could have. She didn’t. Like we know someone’s favorite gift, God knew she wouldn’t either because he knew Mary’s heart. Yet, it was Elizabeth who points out that salvation is a cooperating event between God and his creation. It is always an option that we can say “no.” When we do, we often derail the chosen plans of God, who will then ask another to say yes. It is not God who says no. It is we who say no. Praise be to God and thank you, Mary, for saying yes. Thank you, Elizabeth, for proclaiming all this to us.
The salvation story is a story of complementarity. We cooperate with God to save the world. We listen to the Holy Spirit to proclaim the signs that God gives us. We say yes to God when the Holy Spirit asks us to be on a mission for God. These principles of faith are lived out by Elizabeth. Blessed are you, Liz, Libby, Beth, (pause) Elizabeth.
We should not be surprised that John the Baptist is a prophet. He comes from a family that has at least one prophet and one high priest. Today, I declare that a woman, Elizabeth, is an unrecognized prophet. She listens to the Holy Spirit and declares the acts of God in her midst. She is an example for us all. Are we listening to the Spirit? Do we have the same courage to proclaim the activity of God in real time without doubt? Elizabeth did and so can we. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian