Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Visitation: Fertile Grace

One common reason a couple turns to adoption is their own infertility (or the inability to carry a child to term). For some, the anguish is almost unbearable, and the burden can damage a marriage almost beyond repair. (Indeed, in some cases the damage completely obliterates any chance of future happiness, and the marriage dissolves altogether.)

In the story of the Visitation, most people focus on Mary and what must be the most joyeous canticle (holy love song) of all time: the Magnficat (Luke 1:46-55).
What few people stop to consider is the context. The older woman, Elizabeth, has been the subject of whisperings and conjectures of the busybodies at the village well for years. She, the wife of the local priest, had been barren throughout their marriage! What must she have done, to have been punished so?

When at last she became pregnant, she must have been torn between shouting it from the rooftops and keeping it quiet, so as not to stir up more unwanted attention should something go wrong. These fears evaporated, however, when her cousin Mary turned up at her door. The moment she laid eyes on the teenage girl, and guessed her secret, she felt the baby leap in her womb and could not longer contain her joy.

"Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

It is doubtful that, at that precise moment, Mary had been feeling particularly blessed. Apprehensive, yes. Queezy, quite possibly. She, betrothed but not yet married, carried a child beneath her heart. How could she tell her family ... her beloved Joseph?

But when Elizabeth greeted her with those prophetic words, Mary's joy rivaled her cousins':

"...he who is might has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation."

How often in life do we find ourselves poised on the edge of something new ... a new opportunity, a new chance to trust ... and find ourselves apprehensive about whether we really heard God right. Is this really God's will for our lives?

Time and again, he brings to us seeds of grace -- often through another person -- to encourage and motivate us forward. God knows that we love him, that we want to serve him wholeheartedly. Sometimes we just need a little light for the road.