Today, May 31, is the Feast of the Visitation.
The Gospel for the day is from the Gospel According to Luke:
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste t a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
On the Feast of the Visitation we celebrate several things. We celebrate the deep bond between Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, two women, one older and one younger, unexpectedly with child. For both, these children represented the work of God in their lives, not only for themselves, but for the whole world. For Elizabeth’s child was John the Baptist, the herald of the Lord, and Mary’s child, of course, was Jesus, her Savior and ours. Here are two women literally nurturing and cradling God’s plan of salvation in their wombs!
We also celebrate the deep bond between the two cousins, John the Baptist and Jesus, our Lord. John leaped when he heard Mary’s greeting, knowing that his Lord was near. That bond is reflected in the liturgical calendar, for the Feast of the Birth of the Baptist is June 24, six months before Christmas. Some scholars theorize, in fact, that the celebration of John’s birth preceded the celebration of the Nativity in the early Church, and it was John’s feast day that determined the date for Christmas. In any case, John and Jesus were very close. It was John who announced the coming of the Messiah, and who pointed out Jesus to the world: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John baptized Jesus, and Jesus’ glory was made known by the presence of the Holy Spirit and the declaration of the Father that, “This is my beloved son.”
We also celebrate the Motherhood of Mary. Mary is the Mother of our Lord, and our Mother, given to us by Jesus from the cross. Is it possible to honor too much the one Jesus honored more than any other? Mary’s only desire, both during her temporal life and now in her life as Queen of Heaven, Queen of Peace, Queen of All Saints, is to draw us ever closer to Jesus, her Son. She wants nothing else. All generations shall call her blessed!
Finally, we celebrate the Christian virtues of hospitality and service. Even in her pregnant state, Elizabeth extended her hospitality to Mary and, even in her pregnant state, Mary extended her service to Elizabeth. “Consider the needs of the saints as your own,” Paul wrote. “Be generous in offering hospitality.” Mary considered the needs of Elizabeth as her own, and Elizabeth was generous in her hospitality. They are models for us all, especially as we consider what it means to be of service to and extend hospitality to others who come from far away lands, or who move into our neighborhood, or who are new to our school or workplace, or who may have a need that we can meet. The Almighty has done great things for us, and holy is His Name. Now, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.