As you can tell by the title of today’s reflection, today is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an alternative first reading today (Romans 12:9-16) that has a lot to do with Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, but it also shows how we should also treat one another. Some of these words especially stand out:
“Do not let your love be a pretense … love each other … respect each other …. You should make hospitality your special care.”
The reading goes on to say, “Bless those who persecute you, never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness …”
As we move on to the gospel reading today, these words take on new meaning:
“Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
It was a beautiful thing that Elizabeth and her unborn child recognized the Lord’s hidden presence in Mary’s womb. What a beautiful event this was on so many levels. It was most certainly confirmation to Mary, that the child she was carrying was indeed the son of God. It was beautiful how Elizabeth’s child proclaimed the presence of Jesus Christ, even before either one of them were born. What a miracle! What a joyous occasion! Mary could not help but proclaim with all of her heart, the magnificent thing that God had done for her, when she proclaimed the greatness of the Lord in her spontenous prayer:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from the day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.”
What an absolutely beautiful prayer this is! What glory and honor it gives to Almighty God!
The reading is not over however, until this last sentence in today’s gospel ….
“Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.”
Mary set an example for families everywhere on so many different levels. Her absolute faith and trust in God, her willingness to obey Him without question … the beauty of her deep faith … is absolutely timeless. However, the subtle undertones of the beauty of this passage in sacred scripture is not just what Mary said – it was in what Mary did.
Mary visited Elizabeth.
Just that. Plain and simple. A simple act of love, caring and concern for her cousin Elizabeth. Mary took the time out of her busy life to put aside herself and her own personal concerns, to visit someone she cared about, and she traveled a great distance to do so. Mary took a trip all the way to the hill country of Judah just to see Elizabeth, at no minor inconvenience to herself.
Is there someone in your life that you haven’t visited for a while? Maybe a member of your own family or a close friend? Have you been putting it off because you just don’t have the time to go see them? What is really stopping you? Time? Or some of the selfish pursuits that we all enjoy in our daily lives?
It takes a lot of time, trouble and effort to go visit someone, especially if they live more than a few minutes away. One sure way to tell if someone genuinely cares about you though, is if they are willing to give you their undivided attention, free time, money and effort. You can tell what really matters to a person by what they spend their “free time” on.
And, it’s no excuse that other people don’t care enough about you to spend their time, money and effort on you – our model is not other people. The most perfect model for our lives is Mary, the mother of God.