Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
A coincidence in the liturgical calendar gives us another story of a barren woman for today's Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Like Sarai, Elizabeth was also considered barren. Then, when she was considerably past the normal age for bearing children, she gave birth to the forerunner of Jesus. Comparing their two stories presents us with a lesson in trusting the will of God.
Both women were childless. Both were undoubtedly the objects of scorn and derision. Both were the wives of old men. The similarities between Sarai and Elizabeth don't go much further than the circumstantial. The difference between these two women lies in their willingness to do God's will without bitterness.
Of course we don't really know much about Elizabeth before her pregnancy. Everything that we could say about her is more by way of inductive reasoning. If she had not been a good Jewish woman who lived according to the dictates of the Law, Mary would hardly have sought her out as a source of consolation in her own difficult moment. While we usually refer to Mary's charity in visiting her elderly cousin, another take on her visit with Elizabeth lies in her need for the assurance only an older woman good give her as she confronts a potentially dangerous situation; namely, discovering her pregnancy before her marriage. It is important to remember that the women of the village would be the first to know about the pregnancy since Mary would no longer be bound by the regulations of the Law concerning the monthly flow of blood.
Elizabeth's faith in God's will is also demonstrated in her ecstatic outburst when Mary appears before her. God has revealed to her that Mary was about to become the Mother of God. Such prophetic vision would not have been granted to her unless she was looked upon favorably by God.
Living according to God's will is, of course, the task to which all of us must turn our energies. As we confront the daily difficulties of chronic illness and/or disability, let us remember the example of Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist.