The readings for today from the Book of Judges and the Gospel of Luke do not give many details about the two barren women: Samson’s mother and Elizabeth. We do not even know the name of Samson’s mother. The bible does not tell us how old she was or what she looked like. There is some information about Elizabeth, that she is descendant from Aaron. But we do not know if she had siblings, who her parents were, or how her life was like as the wife of a priest. Though many details are missing, we are given the key detail that they both endured many years of suffering from an empty womb.
The story of Elizabeth and Samson’s mother are not only stories of two barren women becoming mothers through God’s miracle. If we read the stories carefully, God makes clear that their children are to have great missions. God tells Samson’s mother that Samson is the one “who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.” Similarly, God tells Zechariah that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward their children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
In some way or another, each of us will have an experience of “barrenness.” There are times when we feel that we are unproductive, incapable to interest or attract, considered incompetent, or full of despair. What helps us to keep our hope alive? What supports us in not giving up on hope? And, what is it like when a long-held hope is at last realised? How can we be certain that even in moments of despair, God still has a great mission for us?