Homily for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
For this morning’s Feast of the Visitation of Mary, our Gospel passage is what immediately follows the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is carrying the very Savior of the world in her womb. In that encounter she is also told that Elizabeth, her cousin, had also conceived a son. Mary’s response to that encounter is to travel in haste to assist her cousin. Her response is one of trust. But it is also one of service.
Think about this for a minute. Mary has just been told she’s pregnant. A woman who has just discovered that news isn’t likely going to want to travel any significant distance on foot. Scripture scholars believe that Elizabeth lived in a village near Hebron, which is roughly 100 miles away from Nazareth where Mary was living. It was a long journey, one that would be physically taxing. Besides that, it was also a dangerous one. The dirt path that wound through the mountainous region is believed to have been a popular place for robbers, who would surprise unsuspecting travelers. And yet, Mary trusted that she would arrive safely so that she could be there with Elizabeth in the final couple of months of her own pregnancy.
In discovering that she was carrying the Savior, Mary experienced God’s love and grace in abundance. Because of that, she was immediately moved to offer herself as an instrument of that grace for others, for someone that she loved dearly. Mary was aware from the start that God’s grace in her life was not something that she had accomplished. It was a total gift. She had been blessed, but the blessing she received was not only for her – it was for all humanity. Having received such an incredible gift from God, she opened her heart to be transformed into a gift for others.
This morning, the Lord is seeking to give us a gift. He wants to visit us – that visit comes to us in the Eucharist. He wants to enter into our bodies and souls in a tangible and physical way. He wants to transform us, just like He transformed Mary. We are called to respond in the same way that Mary did – with trust and in service to others. We are now called to be a gift for others. We cannot keep this gift for ourselves, it must be shared. In what way is the Lord inviting us to share that gift with others today? May we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in that work and have the courage to go out and do it.
Painting: Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist, ca. 1506–7 Francesco Granacci (Met Museum). Public Domain.