In today’s Gospel, two women are placed at the centre of the story; Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Each woman has become pregnant unexpectedly, through God’s power. Each is looking forward to the birth of her child with hope and joy, but also, perhaps, with some uncertainty and even fear. They have come together to support and encourage one another.
John the Baptist, still in the womb, recognises Jesus and leaps with joy to greet him. As a man, John will recognise Jesus and prepare the way for his coming, not seeking glory for himself, but pointing the people towards the Saviour. For now, Elizabeth and Mary rejoice together, because God is bringing salvation to his people.
But salvation comes at a price. Both John and Jesus gave their lives in obedience to God’s plan. Mary had to watch her Son suffer and die – as Simeon prophesied, a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul. Mary faced her ordeal with absolute faith and trust in God. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Jesus’ birth, let us remember and pray for all mothers, especially those caring for their families in difficult circumstances, and those who have to watch their children suffer.