I was pregnant when my grandfather died. At the funeral, I was summoned to come to the ambo in the sanctuary and take over from my distraught father to deliver the words he and his thirteen siblings had so lovingly crafted. From that vantage point, facing a standing-room-only community of mourners, I had the overwhelming, mystical conviction that the child in my womb and my grandfather whose body lay in the casket before us, knew each other at a level to which the rest of us had little access.
In that instant, I was convinced to name the baby Charles, after my grandfather, with the hope that the child might emulate him in the defining qualities of his life: wisdom, justice and mercy.
A few months later, the night Sophia Charles was born, I woke in the maternity wing in the early hours before dawn and had a desperate desire to hold her and be with her. Groggily, as though in a dream, I left my room in search of the nursery. I followed a baby’s plaintive cry to find two nurses rocking infants in a large room filled with babies in bassinets. When I appeared, the women asked how they could help me. I replied, “I want to hold my baby.” Immediately the lone crying newborn quieted. It was Sophie. She knew my voice. She knew me.
Today’s Gospel returned these vivid memories to me.
In this iconic passage, Mary, having learned that she will give birth to God’s son, aware but surely trembling with the magnitude of implications for how her life might unfold, goes in haste to Elizabeth, her cousin and confidante. Elizabeth is pregnant, a fact seemingly miraculous in its own right. The encounter of the two women is exquisite. It is rare in Scripture to find women as protagonists and rarer still to find passages where women have the only speaking roles. This detail in this Gospel contributes to our sense of the Intimacy, authenticity, and soulfulness of this private encounter.
We are told,
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leapt in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb... Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary replies to Elizabeth’s prophetic pronouncement with what is now known as the Magnificat,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
If we are to emulate Mary, this narrative provides a blueprint of wise instruction.
Of course the context matters; it is stark and concrete. Mary, such a young young woman, unmarried, disenfranchised, materially poor, is faced with the news of a wholly anxiety-provoking reality: She will give birth to the Son of God.
We - all of us - are meant to identify with Mary. What must she have felt? When have we been confronted by the realities of our lives and struggled for understanding, perspective, meaning or hope?
It seems especially lately, collectively and individually, locally and globally, we know the terrible seductive temptation to despair, the feeling of hopelessness about the future, the weight of so many seemingly insurmountable challenges before us making it difficult to see beyond a bleak horizon.
And yet. This Gospel.
This Gospel is a celebration of radical faith in God’s abundant, loving invitation no matter the reality in which we find ourselves.
This Gospel is a celebration of deep trust in God’s promise and the immense freedom that comes from such trust.
This Gospel a celebration of the blessing of kindred spirits- exemplified by Elizabeth and Mary. A celebration of abiding friendship, of encouragement and reassurance, of solidarity and empathy.
It is a celebration of joy and gratitude. A recognition of God’s grace and agency and God’s irrevocable desire for our well being. When we co- conspire with God, we have interior freedom and the chance of a lifetime to be a beneficial presence in the world. Our yes to God’s invitation, like Mary’s, can have a profound and lasting impact.
This Gospel is also a celebration of women. An acknowledgement of the burdens women encounter and endure and the grace by which women often transform the realities in which they find themselves to be a blessing for others.
Two things contribute to a meaningful life: access to the transcendent and community.
Let us pray for the grace to trust in God’s love and invitation. Let us pray for the blessing of friendship.
Let us pray for the gift of encouragement.
And let us pray for the courage and quiet confidence to be an instrument of all that God intends in ways we may never realize especially at the moment we say yes to what God longs for us.
Kerry Alys Robinson
Kerry Alys Robinson
Kerry Alys Robinson is the founding executive director and partner for global and national initiatives at Leadership Roundtable.
Kerry has been a lifelong member of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities and FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities.) Kerry is the director of the Opus Prize, an annual international million dollar prize honoring people of faith whose lives are dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering. She has been an advisor to and trustee of numerous national and international grant making foundations and charitable nonprofits.
Prior to Leadership Roundtable, Kerry served as the director of development for Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University where she led a $75 million capital campaign to expand and endow the Chapel's intellectual and spiritual ministry and to construct a Catholic student center, designed by Cesar Pelli, on Yale’s campus.
Kerry is an ardent advocate of Catholic social teaching, women and young adults in the Church.
A frequent writer and international speaker, Kerry is the prize-winning author of Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy and a Spiritual Call to Service. She is a graduate of Georgetown and Yale.
She and her husband, Dr. Michael Cappello, have two children, Christopher and Sophie.