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Friday, February 12, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 1:39–80

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. (NRSV)

Luke includes in this part of his historical narrative several “aha” moments as experienced by significant witnesses and actors in the earliest recorded events in the life of Jesus. Elizabeth recognizes that Mary is carrying the promised Savior, as her child, John, “leaps in her womb.” Mary realizes that because she has been chosen as the mother of Jesus, she will be called blessed throughout history. Zechariah, after receiving back the ability to speak, prophesies that John will be a prophet who will prepare the way before the Lord.

In this passage, for a moment, each significant realization or mystery revealed was like a veil parting, and it was unlikely that it was fully understood at the time. The truth of these mystical revelations would come much later, after birth, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection. How is this scripture—with its spirit messages, prophecies, revelations, and mystical truths—related to our lives today? If Jesus’ life shows us the Way, then surely our lives, too, have mystical moments when we can look back and notice the messages and meanings that bring truth and coherence to our life stories.

During this time of Lent, take the invitation to be reflective on how the mysteries of birth, ministry, suffering, death, and new life have been evident in your life story. Also, be open to what you may be invited to shed or let die as you move into new possibilities, understanding, life choices, or opportunities this season.

Dear God, thank you for the deep mystery of calling us your beloved children. Open us to your grace and mystical truths. Lead us to shed that which no longer serves you or us in this world. Give us courage to listen and be open to new life and callings. We desire to reflect your loving nature in our relationships with all people and the planet. In the name of Jesus, our brother and Savior. Amen.

Written by Susan Schemper, Spiritual Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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