I was away last week making my annual retreat and was praying for you and your families. Please enjoy the following reflection on today’s Gospel (Luke 1) from Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, at saltandlighttv.org.
May you know the peace of Christ,
There are two aspects of today’s Visitation scene to consider. The first is that any element of personal agenda of Mary and Elizabeth is put aside. Both had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. Both women had a right to focus on themselves for a while as they made new and radical adjustments to their daily lives.
Mary reaches out to her kinswoman to help her and also to be helped by her. These two great biblical women consoled each other, shared their stories, and gave each other the gift of themselves in the midst of the new life that they must have experienced: Elizabeth after her long years of barrenness and now sudden pregnancy, and Mary, after her meeting with the heavenly messenger, and her “irregular” marriage situation and pregnancy.
The second point to consider is Mary’s quick response and movement. Luke tells us that she undertook “in haste” the long and perilous trek from Nazareth to a village in the hill country of Judea. She knew clearly what she wanted and did not allow anyone or anything to stop her.
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, St. Ambrose of Milan describes this haste with a difficult Latin phrase, “nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia,” which could mean: “the grace of the Holy Spirit does not know delayed efforts,” or “delayed efforts are foreign to the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Mary’s free choice to move forward and outward reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.
How many things exist in our lives that we dreamed of doing, should have done, and never did — letters that should have been written, dreams that should have been realized, gratitude that was not expressed, affection never shown, words that should have been spoken, etc.? Postponements and delays weigh heavily upon us, wear us down and discourage us. They gnaw away at us. How true St. Ambrose described Mary’s haste: The Spirit completely possessed the Virgin Daughter of Nazareth and compelled her to act.
The story of the Visitation teaches us an important lesson: When Christ is growing inside of us, we will be led to people, places and situations that we never dreamed of. We will bear words of consolation and hope that are not our own. In the very act of consoling others, we will be consoled. We will be at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life and issues seem to be, from them Christ is forming himself.
The women of today’s Gospel show us that it is possible to move beyond our own little, personal agendas and engage in authentic ministry and service in the Church. Ministry and service are not simply doing things for others. Authentic Christian ministers and servants allow themselves to serve and be served, taught, cared for, consoled and loved. Such moments liberate us and enable us to sing Magnificat along the journey, and celebrate the great things that God does for us and His people.
Consider these words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997):
“In the mystery of the Annunciation and the Visitation, Mary is the very model of the life we should lead. First of all, she welcomed Jesus in her existence; then, she shared what she had received. Every time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life — gift of God who is at one and the same time beautiful, kind, unique.
“Thus, the first Eucharist was such: Mary’s offering of her Son in her, in whom he had set up the first altar. Mary, the only one who could affirm with absolute confidence, ‘this is my body,’ from that first moment offered her own body, her strength, all her being, to form the Body of Christ.”
“Bellezza” (“Beauty”) by an Italian religious sister
…God looked upon a woman and loved her,
And he who loves even before looking at the face
Seeks the beauty that lies in the heart.
God looked upon a woman who was from the race
Of the little ones without name,
Those that live far away from palaces.
Those who work in kitchens,
Those who come from the numbers of the humble and the forgotten,
Those that never open their mouths and who are accustomed to poverty.
God looked upon her and found her to be beautiful,
And this woman was joined to him as if she were his beloved — For life and for death.
From now on all generations will call her blessed.
God looked upon a woman. Her name was Mary.
…and if you looked upon her Lord, it is because on Our earth filled with women and men, you found such beauty.