As part of a conversation at the service in Winchester Cathedral to mark 20 years of shared priestly ministry , I reflected on the gospel reading, Luke 1: 39-56.
I began though with a comment about how times had changed in 20 years My colleague ordained in 1994 had remarked that her 17 year old daughter had gained enormous street cred & kudos from having a mother who was a priest.
20 years on, I remarked, for my 17 year old daughter there was no such kudos at all! I think this is a good thing , as the ministry of women continues to be come more and more “unremarkable”, in the best sense of the word.
The verse that sits in the middle of the gospel passage – the hinge really, is one that has been very personally special to me over the course of my adult life, there have been times when I’ve known deep down that God has promised something for me, that he’s had a purpose – sometimes I’ve known what I thought it was – other times it has been just the more general knowledge that he’s promised to fulfil his calling on my life –
And there have been times of waiting and trusting – and hanging on to the fact that there is blessing in the waiting itself, and in the trusting and not just in the fulfilment
Sometimes – as it has been for all of us I’m sure it has been so counter intuitive to believe, to keep on hoping, and yet we trust, we believe and we are blessed in doing so.
When Mary visits Elizabeth, Elizabeth recognises in her what God is doing, the call on her life and she blesses her
There is support, and discernment, no pulling down or envy but a recognition of what God is doing in each of them,
For each of us, men, women, whatever our labels and our struggles, our vocations are our own, to be discovered, discerned and supported, we’re not in competition, in rivalry but in mutality – always recognising God’s hand on the other and blessing what he is doing. It’s such an important lesson –equality does not come by pulling everyone down to the same level, but by allowing each of us to rise to where God calls us all.
Mary’s calling to bear God to the world must have caused her immense pain – the sword that Simeon spoke of at the Presentation was not just a future one – it had happened already.
The ostracism and social condemnation, becoming a pariah in her own village, the moral judgement and the fear of harm & death would have pierced her heart even at the start, and yet she clung to the promise, and its fulfilment,
The promise given to her, her calling, encompassed death, and resurrection,
It was the forerunner of all our vocations, as many of us have dealt in so many various ways with pain and rejection, the death of our calling – and its resurrection in God’s own time. These experiences are universal, not limited to women, for all of us are following the same God, who calls us to die, in order to rise again.
So we proclaim with Mary, that he HAS brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly
Whatever our vocation, our calling our path,
Blessed are we who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what the Lord had promised
“He who has called you is faithful – and he will do it”