Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church

Great people are born first in the heart, not in the womb

by Very Rev. Dr. Yohannan Sankarathil Cor-Episcopa

Devotional Thoughts for Mary's Visit to Elizabeth

Gospel Reading: St. Luke 1: 39 - 49

Mary visits Elizabeth.

The fifth Sunday in the new year of the Church calendar is set for the visit of St. Mary to Elizabeth. In these days of advent, we commemorate the meeting of the heaven and earth, the meeting of two righteous women, the meeting of the mother of God and the mother of His forerunner.

It would be appropriate to give a brief account of the history that leads to the incident.

Malachi, the last prophet in the Old Testament, lived around B.C. 425, prophesied the birth of John the Baptist and the coming of Jesus Christ. For 400 years after the prophesy of Malachi there was no message from God to the earth.

After 400 years, angel came with God's message to the priest Zachariah who was offering the incense in the Holy of Holies, a chance he got once in his lifetime, since there were 24 divisions and 20,000 priests in the Temple of Jerusalem, not far short of a 1000 priests in each division and within the division all the duties were allocated by lot. Zachariah belonged to the division of Abijah and his wife of the daughters of Aaron. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. The angel stood on the right side of the altar of incense, said unto him "fear not, Zachariah: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call him John."

After six months of the announcement to Zachariah, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, a virgin, who was betrothed to Joseph. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Hail, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women."

She was troubled at his saying. Again the angel said, "Fear not Mary: for thou hast found favor with God, thou shall conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call him Jesus, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth-month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing is impossible."

Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word," and the angel departed from her. Mary surrendered herself to God.

Mary arose, with haste traveled the long trip of about 55 miles north of Nazareth and went into the hill country into the city of Judah. When Mary entered the house and saluted Elizabeth, the babe leaped in Elizabeth's womb and was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth spoke out with a loud voice, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."

Mary said to Elizabeth (Lk: 1: 46-55) which is a song called 'the magnificat.'

Mary stayed three months with Elizabeth, may be until the birth of John The Baptist. Here we see the humility and dedication of St. Mary. Mary's heart and mind were saturated with the word of God, contained repeated echoes of Hanna's prayers, 1Samuel 1: 11, 2: 1- 10. The two righteous women, Mary and Elizabeth, both carrying a child each with God's promise, staying together in time of need, was a blessed time of their lives. Jesus received the honor 'my Lord' from Elizabeth even before he was born. Here we see the union of the heaven and the earth, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.

Luke was a gentile, a unique distinction of being the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew. He was a physician by profession (Col. 4: 14). It has been said that a minister sees man at their best; a lawyer at their worst; a doctor as they are.

There is no happiness without hardship. Mary carried Jesus, became humble. A woman's beauty is her humility, purity of heart and good deeds; man's beauty is courage and good deeds. When we have God's grace with us, we will be humble, righteous, courageous, ready to help others, love our neighbor and fellow brethren; hence we can please God.

It was in God's house that God's message came to Zachariah. God's voice comes to those who listen to it. Isaiah 30: 21, whenever you turn to your right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice, 'this is way, walk ye in it.'

1. Zachariah and Mary listened the Devine Directions;

a) By still and small voice

b) In the midst of uncertainties, Isaiah 42: 16, 'I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.'

2. God chose the lowly things of this world, and despised things, and things that are not, to multiply the things that are, 1 Cor: 1: 28.

He selects the weak instrument to strengthen the weakness. Zachariah and Mary were rewarded for their deep prayer. Great people are born first in the heart, not in the womb. St. Augustine, said about Jesus Christ, "St. Mary carried Jesus first in her heart, and then received Him in her womb, saying 'Lo, I'm the servant of Lord…….' "

May God Bless You.

See Also:

Elizabeth - a Spiritual Guardian and Protector of Mary
by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

The lad leaped for joy in the womb
by H G Yuhanon Meletius

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