That line in the gospel from today’s feast always delights me. “The child leapt in my womb!”
Jumping baby John the Baptist reminds me of that guy who was healed by St Peter and it says “he went leaping and jumping and praising God.”
Which also reminds me of the Big Bible Baptist Church that some folks used to attend when I was in college. There was a fellow who used to attend that church with the nickname Sunshine. Well, when he would get all fired up with the Holy Spirit he’d run up and down the aisles waving his arms, shouting “Amen and Hallelujah!” and would be jumping and leaping and praising God.
It was, of course, highly amusing for all the sane people, and the Pastor would tolerate it and just say, “Yep, Praise God Sunshine!”
So Baby John the Baptist leaps at the sound of Mary’s voice, which proves a couple of things. First, it was an unborn child who is the first witness to the wonder of the incarnation. Second: linked with that, it is an unborn child who is the first witness to Mary Mother of God. Elizabeth his Mother voices the doctrine when she calls Mary “Mother of My Lord.” Third: the unborn child recognizes the mother’s emotions and recognizes and responds to external stimuli.
Any mother knows this, and every father who has participated in a pregnancy with wonder and awe knows this.
I’m reminded of a woman I knew in England who would watch the soap opera Eastenders every afternoon at tea time. So she put the kettle on, make a cup of tea, grab a piece of cake, sit down, kick off her shoes and watch Eastenders. The show had a very distinctive theme tune.
Once baby was born mother discovered that when baby was fretful or restless, when the theme music from Eastenders came on baby would calm down and go to sleep with a smile on its face. So Mom recorded the theme tune and whenever baby was restless or crying she’ hit “Play”, the tune would come on and baby was asleep. Magic!
Clearly baby not only heard and remembered the music, but associated it with Mother’s happiness and a little caffeine and sugar boost and a time of relaxation and peace that she experienced in the simple happiness of watching her favorite soap opera.
Which is a reminder that the infant in the womb hears and remembers external stimuli–and that is a fearsome thought because if they remember the good and peaceful and happy they also remember the stressful, angry and violent. Yikes!
So we have this powerful pro life feast this week–the week after the Irish danced in the streets with delight. Here’s the irony. They were leaping and jumping for joy because they now have the right to poison, burn, dismember and behead little boys in the womb
Little boys like Jesus and John the Baptist.
The horror. The horror.