Father Ted Scholarship winner
Editor’s note: Beggining this month we are pleased to publish the first of three winning essays in the Father Ted Colleton Scholarship contest. Senior high school students were invited to reflect on the pro-life nature of any work of art. Each winner received a $1,000 scholarship and all entrants (more than 30 of them this year) received a token of appreciation for their interest in the Father Ted essay contest.
Regarded by many as the greatest book ever written, the Bible is an ideal work of art in which to find hopeful messages that speak out in the protection of the life of the unborn. For Christians of all denominations, biblical support is vital for one to hold to a certain belief and, therefore, having even one potent biblical reference that speaks in support of the lives of the unborn is the strongest means of encouraging Christians to hold to pro-life values.
As society falls deeper into a loss of respect for life, it is important for the followers of Christ to believe with unity when it comes to moral questions. Although there are many stories within the Bible that contain a pro-life message, it can be suggested that Luke 1:39-45 offers the most hope of communicating to Christians the importance of protecting innocent life. By taking a close reading of the diction and content of this portion of Luke, no Christian can easily deny that a fetus in the womb is a person and that pregnancy and motherhood is a blessing from God.
The meeting of two great women of the New Testament that this passage describes offers countless aspects of the beauty of pregnancy and motherhood within its content. Most important, one can see that God chooses pregnancy as the method of the incarnation. There are many other ways full of glory, pomp and ceremony, in which the Creator could bring his Son into the world; however, God chooses a quiet means to bring humanity its Saviour. A humble woman conceives within her womb God himself through the Holy Spirit and thereby, pregnancy is bestowed so much more value and beauty. God comes as a baby, innocent and powerless to care for himself, entirely trusting to a mother and father’s protection and love.
Just as Mary and Joseph are given the responsibility of caring for the baby who is God from the moment Mary conceives, so is each and every parent given the responsibility to care for a child even when he or she is still in the womb. Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age is also considered a blessing and brings into the world the one that prepares the way for the Lord. But, more important, it is Elizabeth’s pregnancy that serves as a sign of confirmation to Mary of the truth of the announcement of the angel Gabriel, as God once again uses pregnancy to achieve his will.
The choice of words used in the text offer the reader insight into the beauty of being with child. In saying to Mary, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth speaks words that value life (Luke 1:42). The womb and person of Mary are honoured by housing a tiny being that is “blessed,” suggesting that all mothers are honoured when they have the opportunity of holding life within themselves. The choice of word, “fruit,” signifies the womb producing something good, sweet and nourishing not only for the mother, but for the family and, in the case of Jesus, a “fruit” for all humanity.
Elizabeth does not stop here, but goes on to state that receiving Mary, the “mother” of the Lord, into her house is an honour she is not worthy of. She recognizes the position of Mary as a “mother” as one of high consequence. These words spoken by Elizabeth should echo in the hearts of mothers for all ages and situations, giving them hope that they are loved by God and by giving birth to children, they bring goodness to the world.
The diction of this passage offers further evidence that a child is a human being from the moment of conception. When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, she is not far along in her pregnancy. Yet, through Elizabeth’s words in verse 43, she distinguishes that Jesus is the Lord well before his birth. He is not just a clump of cells or piece of tissue. He is the Lord.
However, the strongest message in support of the unborn as individuals comes from the human who is hardly mentioned in this passage, yet plays a significant role. The baby within Elizabeth’s womb, John, and his small action of “leaping for joy” at the greeting of Mary offers the reader a clear picture of the humanity of an unborn child. It is John, even before he sees the light of day, who recognizes Jesus as the Messiah on his own, whereas both Mary and Joseph need to be told by the angel that their child is God. Elizabeth also recognizes him as God only after the Holy Spirit enters her (verse 41). Many of the disciples, grown men, did not see Jesus for who he was until they had spent a great deal of time with him, but John leaps for joy at Jesus’s coming without any divine intervention mentioned.
No Christian can say that this tiny, intelligent, innocent and defenceless life within Elizabeth was not a human being. He was more in touch with God than anyone already walking and talking upon the earth. In Luke 1:39-45, John displays to all Christians that a baby is an individual before birth, a person with emotions, a will and a soul. To kill such a human being would be murder.
The richness of this story of the Bible can be evidently seen by looking a little more deeply under its surface. It offers a hopeful and beautiful portrayal of pregnancy for any Christian parent and has the potential to steer a woman away from considering an abortion.
Through the simple words of Elizabeth, the vocation of Mary, the person of Jesus and John’s small action of joy, life is defended and enriched.
Jamie Slivinski attends Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg.