Homily for May 31, Feast of the Visitation
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is truly an extraordinary woman.
When the angel Gabriel tells her she is to become the mother of the Messiah, she doesn’t do what most of us would do – namely, start spreading the good news among family and friends, and maybe acquaintances and anyone else who would listen. She doesn’t even tell Joseph, who she is about to marry. Instead, she focuses on a different piece of news: her elderly cousin Elizabeth is miraculously pregnant too. According to the Gospel reading today, Mary drops everything else and travels “in haste” to her cousin’s house to help her during the rest of her pregnancy.
This is hardly a good idea if Mary is thinking about her own reputation. She disappears from Nazareth right after the Annunciation and stays with her cousin for three months, until the birth of John the Baptist, and then returns to Nazareth being three months pregnant. That must raise some eyebrows. Upon her return, St Joseph is bewildered and disappointed, thinking she has been unfaithful. Others too must think either that she and Joseph have rushed things a bit, or that Mary has briefly run away with another man under pretext of visiting her cousin. We know that things worked out in the end, but only thanks to God’s intervention, sending an angel to St Joseph in a dream.
The fact is, Mary wasn’t thinking about her own reputation. She seems to think mostly about others all the time. Even when she arrives at Elizabeth’s house, and is greeted by her cousin’s words of praise and blessing, she deflects the attention from herself. She responds to Elizabeth with a canticle of praise and thanksgiving to God, only referring to herself as a “lowly servant” blessed by the Lord. This is why Mary is such a perfect instrument and messager of God. Her thoughts are for God and for others. There is nothing in her to get between us and the Child she bears. She lives to bring Him to others and intercedes for us before her Son, whether or not we realize it, like she did at the wedding in Cana.
Every Christian in a state of grace carries Jesus within – not quite like Mary who literally carries Him in Her womb, but in a real spiritual way through the indwelling of the Trinity in our souls. Like Mary, we are called to let Jesus shine through us, in our words and works, in the way we serve others and in the way we recognize our own role as servants of the Lord. Like Mary, we are duty-bound to give thanks and glory to God for all the blessings He has given to us and to others through us. May Mary, the greatest of saints and most blessed of all mothers, help us to follow in her footsteps here on earth, that we may also follow her into her Son’s presence in the joy of heaven.