And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. —Luke 1:36
Mary pretty much gets all the credit for saying yes to God’s request that she carry the Son of God and raise him to adulthood. (Matthew’s Gospel gives a plug to Joseph for his role in protecting Mary and her child, but otherwise, Mary gets all the praise.) Today’s scripture reading reminds us God needed other people to play key roles so that everything could work together for Jesus’ good. John the Baptist prepared Jesus’ way as an adult, but first, God needed a mother to prepare John. It was Elizabeth who took on that responsibility. Who prepared Elizabeth for her role, and who prepared Mary? That would have mostly fallen to their mothers, as well as some aunts, grandmothers, and other extended family, friends, and neighbors. Their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers all had roles too. In that time and culture, men typically provided food and protection for the women and children while the women did the child-rearing.
I once had a spiritual direction client, a man in his 70s, lament that he will never get the chance to say “yes” to something God asks of him that is as big as Mary’s “yes” was. After talking about it for a bit, he came to the realization that Elizabeth had a particular “yes” to give, as did Joseph, as did John the Baptist, as did every other person who helped Jesus in his life, no matter how big or small their contributions. My client then started thinking of examples when God asked something of him, from buying a sandwich for a homeless person, to pausing what he was doing to help his child with his homework, to turning off the television to listen to his wife. Some of them were things other people could do if he didn’t (like feed the homeless person), but some could only be done by him—like be the father his child needed him to be. He decided that maybe what God needs from him is his willingness to say yes to many, many small things rather than one monumental thing like Mary was asked to do.
For action: What thing(s) might God be asking of you this week? Can you say yes?