by Nick VandeHey, Biking for Babies missionary
What are they going to say about me? How are they going to respond when they find out? Sharing the news of a pregnancy is a big step, especially when it is unplanned. Imagine you are a high school or college student sharing the news with your parents or boyfriend. Maybe you are an older woman with kids already and one more child just was not in your plans. Even if everything was exactly according to your plan, sharing the news can still hold some uncertainty.
Throughout the countless hours on the bike as a B4B missionary, this moment is one I have reflected on a lot. I have prayed with this image especially while reflecting on the Visitation as part of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. In this mystery, we contemplate Mary the Mother of God sharing the news of her pregnancy with Elizabeth. As she traveled to visit Elizabeth in the hill country, Mary was undoubtedly still pondering the announcement of her pregnancy. Although she perfectly trusted the will of God, I would imagine there was still some unknown. It’s safe to say that her pregnancy was not exactly “planned” by Mary herself, not to mention the fact that she was pregnant with God’s son. It seems to me like these are some heavy thoughts, to say the least.
But then she meets her cousin Elizabeth. In that critical moment where she shares the big news, she is received with love and joy. I absolutely love this image of the two women embracing each other, marvelling in the gift of life, and rejoicing in the goodness of God. As they share smiles and laughter, they are reminded of the incredible gift of life they have received from the Lord. They recognize they are not alone and that God has a beautiful plan for both of them. It is after this moment of love and affirmation that Mary delivers her Magnificat, proclaiming God’s greatness and recognizing the amazing things He has done.
That’s why the work of [pregnancy resource centers] is so incredibly important. They are in some ways much like Elizabeth. At that critical moment when a woman shares the news, PRCs immediately receive her with love and support. Too often the announcement of an unplanned pregnancy results in hesitant questioning, mocking, and sometimes even coercion toward one decision or another. Is this really how we respond to God’s miracle of life? Do we judge the actions of others and feel sorry for the “consequence” of life or do we truly recognize the gift of life?
While most pregnancies (as far as I know) will not literally be God incarnate like Mary’s, every child reveals a totally unique part of God’s love that only they can share. Created in God’s image and likeness and loved into existence, every single child blesses the world with a reminder of God’s goodness. Every child participates in a part of God’s plan that only they can accomplish. If you are like me, you will read over that, nodding along. Yet, if we really stop to think about what that means, not just in our head, but in our hearts, it will revolutionize the way we view each and every single person. By receiving others as Elizabeth does, we can be drawn closer toward God. Just as Mary draws Elizabeth’s hand toward Jesus in the image, so too will she draw us toward Him when we recognize the dignity of others and receive them with love.
Too often we focus on the burden of life instead of the gift of life. Pregnancies aside, looking back on 2020 is a great example of how we focus so much on where we are inconvenienced rather than blessed. We look at all the things we missed, the plans that were cancelled, and the various other difficulties. Amidst these challenges, the Visitation reminds us that life is beautiful. It reminds us that we have been given a Savior and should jump with joy upon his arrival, just as John does in Elizabeth’s womb. It reminds us that God’s love triumphs over the brokenness of own world.
Together, let us pray for women announcing the news of a pregnancy. May the God of consolation give them strength and courage. May they be received by the people around them with joy just as Elizabeth receives Mary. May they recognize the gift of life inside them, and may we all recognize the gift of life inside every individual. We pray that today we may be more aware of the joy of life amidst our daily challenges. May we, like Mary, rejoice in the Lord and may our lives proclaim the gospel of life to everyone we encounter.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior”