Mary, 'blessed among women'

Mary is the third woman in the Bible to be told she is 'blessed among women'. Jael, who killed Sisera by hammering a tent peg through his temple, is addressed in this way (Judges 5:24). So too is Judith, who killed Holofernes and cut off his head (Judith 13:18). It is all very gory and bloody, the company Mary keeps. These women are champions of Israel, great heroines of the people, larger than life figures from Israel's heroic age. There are many echoes of that heroic age - the time of the judges and the kings - in the infancy narratives of the gospels. Jesus is, after all, 'Joshua', and Mary's song of praise is anticipated by Hannah, the mother of Samuel.

But Mary is a contrast to the rugged and violent women of that age just as she is a contrast to the other women mentioned in Matthew's genealogy, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. On the one hand it warns us against becoming too prudish and effete, as if we do not all belong to families and nations of flesh and blood. On the other hand the contrast between Jael and Judith, and Mary, reminds us of the journey we need to take from the Old Testament content of the stories, titles and expectations echoed in the infancy narratives, to the kind of Messiah Jesus actually turned out to be. We can put it like this: if law was given through Moses, and power and might are seen in David, Samson, Judith and Gideon, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ - a new kind of law, a new kind of power, a new way of being and living. We glimpse it in these last days of Advent, as we wait to see His face and to hear His voice.

The author of this homily