The Truth will Set You Free

David Barrow FAITH Magazine May – June 2011

Fr David Barrow is Parish Priest of Mile End in east London.


At the Visitation we see two women who have become fruitful and pregnant with new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. One is Mary, a Virgin who has conceived the Christ child without need of a father. She remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of her child. The second is Elizabeth, a woman past the age of childbearing whose womb has been opened by the grace of God. These two pregnant mothers point to the way that we too can become fruitful and pregnant with the new life of the Holy Spirit. How? By believing in God's promises, the promises which were made to us in our baptism, and which are continually renewed through the proclamation of his Word at Mass.

The Hebrew term for "Word" is dibhar, which has a double meaning. It also means "a promise". In other words each Word that God addresses to us depends for its fulfilment on him -and not on us. We are called, like Mary, to give our fiat, to give God permission to work within us. In fact Elizabeth says to Mary that she is blessed because she has believed in the "promise of God". Without this prior faith in the Word of God announced by the angel Gabriel, there would have been no birth of the Messiah, no Saviour. St. Ambrose says that Mary had to conceive Christ in her heart by faith, believing in the Word of the Angel Gabriel, and consenting to the work of God, before she could conceive him in the flesh in her womb, i.e. there were two conceptions.

In the gospel of Matthew (Mt 12:48-50) is an incident where the family of Jesus seem to have had enough of his apparent delusions of being a prophet and a Saviour, and are embarrassed by his continuing ministry. They try to drag him out of the crowd to whom he is preaching. In reply Jesus, practically disowning them, says something peculiar: "'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother." He says that by believing in him, we can become his mother! Not by giving birth to him in the flesh, but through faith conceiving him in our hearts. How can we too become pregnant by the Holy Spirit?

As natural pregnancy begins when the sperm of the male fertilises the female ovum, so too the divine pregnancy in us began at our baptism. It matures and brings forth Christ when we hear and believe in God's promises, as encapsulated in the proclamation of the Good News.
How we listen to God's Word is therefore crucial. In listening to God's Word with the same spirit of openness and generosity which Mary had, we can discover God's promises for us. Belief in God's promises makes the impossible become possible. The holiness and beauty and truth which belong to Christ begin to become incarnate in our own lives. Living the gospel without compromise is really possible by God's grace. True happiness can really be found in Christ. This feast of the Visitation may Christ be born is us anew.

Next issue: Roy Peachey on improving the English Curriculum.

Faith Magazine