Sometimes, people wonder whether the Gospel is silent about when human life begins. St. Luke, who was a physician besides being one of the four Evangelists who wrote a Gospel inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives, I think, the clearest answer to that question by preserving the extremely important moment of the encounter of the two pregnant mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, called the Visitation, the second joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary.
Luke, a physician, is telling us Mary conceived the person of the God-Man Jesus from day one of her pregnancy. Breathlessly Mary goes in haste and reaches her cousin’s door. At six months, Elizabeth is obviously pregnant — her pregnancy is showing for sure! The excited Mary confirms then that she herself is pregnant! So the angel could be trusted as an authentic messenger from God.
But Elizabeth, we assume, had not been told of her younger cousin’s pregnancy. And after but ten days Mary was hardly “showing.” Yet, Elizabeth impulsively shouts, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” At the time, Jesus was hardly the size of a pinhead and had only been just implanted into the lining of Mary’s womb. Yet Elizabeth was moved to call Him “my Lord.” So, Elizabeth was inspired to realize that in the early days of her pregnancy, Mary “was already carrying the person of the God-Man Jesus.”
But the story is not done. In response to Mary’s salutation, Elizabeth says, “For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.” Her babe was of course John. He would be known to history as John the Baptist. Thus, John, himself already a person, salutes not merely a ten-day-old personless embryo but another genuine person. So what is the Visitation really about? What is it telling us through Elizabeth and her unborn son John? Yes, Human life, alive and complete, is present in every mother’s womb from the beginning of her pregnancy – it’s that simple! Mary pregnant with a 10-day-old Jesus visits Elizabeth in the early days of His development: that is perhaps the greatest witness to the sanctity of human life (Dr. John Willke, M.D.).
It is therefore the real truth that every abortion then is the killing of a living, fully human being. Jesus has clearly taught us that abortion is wrong by the decisive facts of His early days in Mary’s womb. We are in debt to St. Luke, the physician. As a modern-day physician, Dr. John Willke, states, though infants die by chance, they should never die by choice.
Perhaps one of the most crucial questions we have to ask today is the most basic question of all — when does life begin? This year, Roe v. Wade was overturned, and now this question is turned back from the judicial branch to the legislative branch of each of the 50 states.
Of course, the reason this question is still debated even and up to this very day is because there are so many vested interests that need to hide the obvious and scientific answer that life begins with conception – when we first can see a completely new and unique full and human genetic code in a living and reproducing cell. The Angel Gabriel said to Mary: you will conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. The act of conception is a sacred moment and in a real sense it marks the beginning of life — not necessarily recognisable or sustainable human life, but it is a beginning. These beginnings can be so small! The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, Jesus says, like buried treasure, or like a pearl of great price. God came among us first through conception in His Mother’s womb: tiny, tiny life! Jesus has revealed the importance of human life from conception through the duration of all pregnancies and into birth; this is hidden but real life, something that is a matter of great consequence to our world today. When we see God use “nothingness” in such a glorious way in and through Mary, then we can see that God is so close to us, and whatever our inadequacies or our deficiencies, we can know that God is close to us. The closeness of Mary pregnant and expecting makes us leap like John the Baptist in his mother’s womb. Whenever we need to pray to God, “give us new life, Lord,” we know that in Mary’s maternal presence our prayer is already being answered.
We also see that in Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Mary gives to Elizabeth not according to her own convenience but according to the needs of her elderly relative. It was not convenient for Mary to travel the lonely, dangerous road from Galilee to the hills of Judea. It was certainly for her an uphill task. But Elizabeth needed a helping hand. She was six months pregnant and would no longer be able easily to go and draw water from the village well, or to look after the crops in her garden or the animals on her farm, she would no longer be able to go so easily to the market to do her shopping. So Mary, as soon as she learned that Elizabeth – elderly Elizabeth, remember, beyond baby-bearing age – was six months pregnant, she goes with haste and stays with her for about three months, meaning, until Elizabeth gave birth. Mary did this in haste, she was “busy” about the things of God. Mary gave to Elizabeth what she needed when she needed it. That is the perfect gift. May we do likewise!
YES! AMEN! In the living, loving, giving and caring Hearts of Jesus and Mary and Joseph,