Summary: What has God done in your life; what has God done for you? That’s worth considering every day, both the big miracles and the tiny ones.
When we give our lives to our Lord Jesus Christ, everything changes, doesn’t it? Most of us, from childhood, are habituated to self-centered lives. Things are important to us if they do something for us, if we enjoy them, if they give us security, pleasure, excitement, money. People are important to us if they give us security, pleasure, excitement, money. All that has to change, either all at once or over time, when we are in love with Jesus, when we develop a personal relationship with Christ.
Now in our tradition we celebrate that moment in the life of Mary of Nazareth, the Blessed Virgin, on March 25. That’s exactly nine months before we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, so we learn about angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary on that date. That’s the moment she gave her whole life to Our Lord, wasn’t it. And everything changed for her. She said “yes” to the angel because it was God’s will. She didn’t even think of what she would tell Joseph. She was that much in love with the Lord. So what does she do? She finds a caravan and goes south to her elderly cousin’s house, because the angel told her that Elizabeth was six months with her own preborn baby boy. We celebrate the birth of John the Baptist at the end of June, so today, roughly midway between those days, we read this Gospel. It’s called the visitation of Mary. But let’s first go back to what St. Paul is teaching about love.
“Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” Mary, newly pregnant with Jesus, is well aware of the difficulties involved in carrying a child. She knows Elizabeth is pretty old. We don’t know how old, but she knew that bearing a child at any age is problematic, and with a body over the age of forty, it can be dangerous. That’s why she jumped up and went to Elizabeth’s aid. She was needed, especially in the last trimester. Elizabeth needed her and then at and after the birth there would be visitors to take care of. Thinking nothing for herself, Mary rushed to her cousin’s assistance. And at the birth and circumcision, she was there to rejoice with everyone. What the participants other than Mary didn’t know is that the real Holy One of Israel was already in their midst, that John’s birth was just the beginning of joy.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Today we are asked to contemplate the moment in history when the two cousins met. We aren’t told how long it had been since their last visit. No, we are asked to contemplate the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of both women. Mary probably said, “Shalom, Elizabet,” and at those words, heard by both Elizabeth and her preborn infant, the baby John did a little flip in his mother’s uterus, one she felt. It was, the Fathers tell us, like the dance that King David did before the Ark of the Covenant over a thousand years before. Just as the Ark was thought of as the earthly house of God, so Mary was acting in the same way with the tiny God-man inside her. Elizabeth yelled, “Blessed are you among women” to Mary, because she discerned–taught by the Holy Spirit–that Mary was conveying the Messiah to her and to the people of Israel.
Mary’s response is one that has been used constantly by the Church for a couple of thousand years, prayed every day by millions. She knew, as Elizabeth had said, that her belief in the words of Gabriel was mightily instrumental in the blessing of the child in her own womb. So she turned all the attention to the one who engineered the double pregnancies, the double miracles, when she said “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Magnificat in Latin.
What has God done in your life; what has God done for you? That’s worth considering every day, both the big miracles and the tiny ones. Bless God for those events, those gifts. Just as Mary, hearing Elizabeth, forgot the difficulties of the journey from Nazareth, turn your attention away from your own troubles, and focus on the gifts of God. Give thanks to Him. I’d suggest praying sometime today this prayer of Mary, whose whole life was lived for Jesus, and ask that you might be like her in the same way.