Mary Visits Elizabeth
This gospel passage about the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth brings me back to the day when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the Pope Benedict XVI. From the conclave up to the inauguration of the new pope, we experienced a kind of divine visitation. Both were moments of God visiting His people and assuring us of His presence and faithfulness.
When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth, she was happy and grateful. St. Elizabeth said: “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believe that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” The word “blessed” is from the Greekword makarios which is literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”. This joy is serene and untouchable, self-contained and independent from chance and changing circumstances of life. Mary is blessed because she is the Mother of the Son of God.
Reflecting this Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us reflect also on the three great gifts of calling that we received when we were baptized. These gifts enable us, like Mary, to bring and reveal Jesus to others, as Fr. James Ferry, MM reflected and I will borrow his words, published in the Homily Guides of the Archdiocese of Manila (2007 Advent and Christmas):
First is, we are called to Mission. We are called by God to announce the Good News of salvation to our families, place of work, schools and to whomever we meet everyday. Let us bring Jesus to others by the way we live good, holy and Catholic lives. We are doing this because we experience the love of Christ in us.
Like this story I read. When Hudson Taylor was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for the mission field. On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations for service. He asked: “And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?” Some of the answers were: “I want to go because Christ has commanded us to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature”; “I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ.” Then Hudson Taylor said, “All of these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testing, trials, tribulations and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ”.
Second is, we are called for Joy. St. John leapt for joy with the presence of Jesus together with His mother. In other words, Jesus brings joy to those who listen and read His words, experience His presence especially in the Eucharist. As His followers, we must speak of Jesus, like what others are doing on a bus; tell others about Him and allow His presence in us to fill us with joy, a joy that will enable us to draw others to Jesus by our example of kindness, concern and service.
In my homily last Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) I told the people the way on how to bring true joy into our lives. I told them that all we have to do is spell the word joy as J.O.Y. What each letter stands for and the order of the letters? ‘J’ stands for ‘Jesus’ and just as ‘J’ is the first letter of JOY, so Jesus should always be the first in our lives. ‘O’ stands for ‘Others’ and just as ‘O’ is the second letter of JOY, we should always think of others as the second in our lives. The ‘Y’ stands for ‘You’ and just as ‘Y’ is the last letter of JOY, we should always think of ourselves as the last. If you can still remember the motto of one of American greatest baseball players and coach, ‘I am Third.” The explanation was, God is first, others are second and I am third. Therefore, to bring true JOY into our lives, always think of Jesus first, others second and yourself last.
Third is, we are called to Trust in God. Mary lived her calling by trusting God and not only as the Mother of God. This made her kept going even at the cross.
And so we are called to do our mission with joy and trust in the Lord in all circumstances of our lives despite trials and difficulties, suffering and disappointments. He tells us not to be afraid.