On this fourth Sunday of Advent, Mary journeys to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth is six months pregnant with John the Baptist and any doubts she may have had about carrying a child at her age have been stripped away by time and her changing body, and the kicks of a baby boy within her. Mary, has just been visited by the angel Gabriel and is told that she will conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and bear the Son of God. She might respond with fear or worry? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:37) These words of humility and discipleship propel her into action and she sets out boldly to take this news to her cousin Elizabeth. The encounter of these two pregnant women is a prophetic moment:
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt 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.” (Lk 1: 41-42)
What arises from Elizabeth, who was “filled with the Holy Spirit”? She joyously announces Mary as Jesus’ mother. Empowered by the Spirit, she boldly and immediately speaks the truth of God’s presence in their midst. And Mary responds by praising God as well with her canticle, traditionally called the Magnificat. Both women stand in humility, recognizing the power of God and their mission to “announce” boldly his presence in their midst.
The author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” throughout his writings. Mary is told during the Annunciation that , “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” (Lk 1:35) This young woman boldly travels to carry this message out a great distance. Of John the Baptist we hear “even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.” John prepared the way for Jesus without humility and strength, without pride or regard for his personal safety. (Lk 1:15) Zechariah, Peter and John , Stephen, Ananias, the community gathered for Pentecost, Paul and the disciples are also all said to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
What common threads weave throughout these stories of being “filled with the Holy Spirit? What are distinctive marks we can point to? Each person speaks the truth of God out into the world through both their words and deeds. All respond boldly and immediately when faced with an opportunity to evangelize – to share the good news of God’s presence with those they encounter. In some cases, being “filled with the Holy Spirit”, means speaking the truth into the lies and naming the false prophets, thereby stripping them of their power. Luke’s Gospel gives us two examples: Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” when he returned from his baptism in the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil (Lk 4:1). He confronts the temptations of the devil head-on with words of wisdom and truth. Paul is said to be filled with the Spirit, when he confronts a false prophet with these words: “”You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness” (Lk 13:10) In all cases the words and actions point to God’s presence dwelling in our midst and God’s offer of hope and hospitality to a broken world. Aren’t we called to the same mission? Wouldn’t it be awesome if every encounter we had during this season was filled with the same boldness and immediacy that Mary and Elizabeth displayed?
May Christ truly be your light as we journey from Advent into the Christmas Season!
- Changing My Focus – #Advent 2012 – Day 10: Immanuel (pilgrimwanderings.com)
- Advent: The First Baby Shower Unites Women on the Margins (wholeness4all.wordpress.com)