Mary “traveled to the hill country in haste” (Lk 1:39) and as she drew close and called out to announce her arrival: Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, [and] 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” (Lk 1:41-42). This is an encounter of joy. Elizabeth’s response is a confirmation to Mary’s yes to the angel Gabriel, that she has indeed conceived in her womb the Son of God who was taking on flesh and becoming one of us, a human being, as she traveled to the hill country. Elizabeth’s son recognized him, and in leaping with joy, helped to get the celebration started!
The encounter and interaction between Mary and Elizabeth, Jesus and John, at the Visitation is a model for us of discipleship. Touched by the Holy Spirit we are to go out to share the Good News that God our Father loved us so much that he sent his Son to be one with us. He was willing to enter into our humanity. Some of the earliest heresies in the Church, which are still perpetuated today, were birthed because of an unwillingness to accept this gift, that God entered into and embraced our humanity, that God would become human was and is still for too many inconceivable.
Yes, we have been wounded by sin, but we have not been destroyed. The coming of the Son of God as one of us is an opportunity to be healed, to be born again from above, and this can happen through the same love of the Holy Spirit that inspired John to leap and Elizabeth to rejoice.
Resist the mind noise from within, and without from other people who tell us overtly and/or covertly that we are worthless or nothing. Not true! Through our very being, we are created in the image and likeness of God, we have been created by Love, to receive and to share love. We are a living craving hunger and desire to be in communion with God and one another. This is true for the atheist and the believer alike. We are called to will the good of the other as other as they are, unconditionally. If we have fallen short, a little or a lot, in the way we have been treating ourselves or others lately, today is a new day to take Jesus’ hand and begin anew. Let us celebrate with Jesus, Mary, Elizabeth and John.
We are celebrating that Jesus was born for us, he lived that we might not only be shown a better way, but know that he is the Way. Jesus became vulnerable for us, a key ingredient in unconditional love: to be willing to risk being authentic to who God called him to be, even to being willing to be rejected, even if that meant that all might walk away from him. May we be willing to be vulnerable, to risk, to share with others who we are, free of masks and pretense. May we be present to, and also walk and accompany one another. Being there for our family and friends is important, and if we take our Christianity seriously, we must come to acknowledge, in concrete ways, person to person, that we are all brothers and sisters, that in Christ we are all related.
Just as the sun shines on the good and the bad alike, Jesus died for each and every human being, all of us. After his Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit, the Love shared between the Father and the Son, to empower us to live as he did, in communion with his Father, so to better actualize our communion with one another.
An invitation for the transformation of all humanity and creation happened at the Galilean hill side when two simple women said yes to God and embraced with joy. They came to embrace not only each other, but their vocation. May we join them in saying yes to God, follow his will with joy as Mary and Elizabeth did and with them, celebrate the gift of life, because as each of these mothers would experience all too soon, life can be taken quicker than they could or we can ever imagine.
Today is Memorial Day. We remember the men and women who have given their lives to defend our freedom. They sacrificed their lives as did Jesus and John. Each answered their call in their own way such that we all could have life and live it to the full. Let us resist the temptation to take this life, any moment that we have been given, for granted. The life we have may not be perfect, many suffer, many grieve, and many are in pain. Our life is fragile but it is a precious gift. That is why we have much work to do to help to provide better care and access to so many who are in need. Each of us have a unique way to do so. We can begin with the guidance of J.R.R. Tolkien who put these words into the mouth of his character Gandalf, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
We do not know the time or the hour, so let us like Mary go in haste to tell those we care about that we love them. Let us make that call, send that card, email, or text, and/or invite that person for a walk, to sit down and visit. Especially amidst the rising tide of divisive and polarizing darkness, may we be a light to all we encounter. Empowered by the love and joy of Jesus, may we encourage, empower, and lift one another up so as to treat each other with dignity, respect, kindness and understanding. The easiest way to start is when you catch the eye of another, smile. In that simple gesture, we say to the other person that we care enough about them to make the time for them, to acknowledge their dignity, their worth, and to let them know that they exist and have meaning.
On this feast day of the Visitation and Memorial Day, may Mary and Elizabeth intercede on our behalf that we may honor those lives given by better appreciating and respecting the dignity of each other a bit more today than we did yesterday.
Photo: Los Angeles National Cemetery, Getty Images