Friday May 31, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Visitation
Reading (Romans 12:9-16) Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-56)
We see in the readings today a snapshot of the way we are to live the Christian life. Saint Paul tells us, for instance, in the first reading that we are to love what is good, to reject what is evil, to show affection to one another, to be hospitable, and all these different points that he makes along the way. Of course, we see all of these things in the scene of the Visitation. Our Lady, hearing about Elizabeth being in her sixth month, immediately gets up and walks 80 or 90 miles to Ein Karem just outside of Jerusalem. Entering the house of Zechariah, Our Lady greets Elizabeth, and John the Baptist leaps in her womb. You see these two women, then, in total charity toward one another. As Mary reaches out to Elizabeth, Elizabeth turns right around and she exalts Our Blessed Lady. And Our Lady, in her humility, turns right around and gives all the glory and honor to God.
Here is the Blessed Mother with Our Lord within her - the most exalted of all creatures that ever has been and ever will be - and her first inclination is to serve, to go beyond herself, not to look for any recognition for herself. She did not say a word to Elizabeth about the fact that she was with child; but rather, it was by the Holy Spirit that Elizabeth recognized that Our Lord was present within Our Lady. She would be able, then, to exclaim, "Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" And yet again, Our Lady, not looking at herself and thinking how wonderful it is that Elizabeth recognizes this mystery, but rather, looking immediately to God, she glorifies Him: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior."
We see the way that we need to be. The Christian way is charity. It is precisely the command of Our Lord that we are to love. Again, love is not about having happy feelings for somebody; love is giving. It is going beyond yourself; it is seeking the good of another; it is pouring one’s self out for the sake of other people. That is what we are supposed to be doing: always looking to the needs of others, knowing that God will take care of our needs. Our Lady was not worried about herself; she simply was concerned about Elizabeth and she went to serve. So that is the pattern for us.
We also see the pattern of the way that these two women are: Mary, looking to the needs of Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, looking beyond her needs even when Our Lady comes to serve her. Elizabeth does not look at herself and proclaim how wonderful this is that God has favored her with a child when she is in her sixties; but rather, she simply turns to Our Lady and glorifies her. Then Our Lady glorifies God. What we see in this for ourselves is that we need to focus on the other and anything good that another will approach us with needs to go to God. We know it is not us; maybe we cooperated with God. Our Lady could say, "Well, I said ‘yes’ - that is about all I did." What about us? We cannot say a whole lot more than that. All we can ever say is that we cooperated with God to do whatever good happened. We cannot take the credit for it because we did not do it; God did it, so we need to glorify Him. He is at work within us and any good that we are going to do is because of His grace, not because of any merit of ours or any ability of our own. It is God’s gift which has given us the ability and it is God who has given us the grace. So we glorify Him.
But we need also to meditate upon this beautiful scene. Keep in mind that at this moment we have Elizabeth, who is exceedingly holy, but we also have the three holiest persons that will ever be known on the face of the earth. We have Our Blessed Lady; we have Our Lord; and we have Saint John the Baptist, who at this moment was freed from Original Sin as he leapt in his mother’s womb; and the communication that is taking place between the two women externally, the communication that is taking place between the two babies in the womb, and what is going on within the hearts of each as the grace of God fills each one of them with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit as Original Sin is removed. Elizabeth, we are told, was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had already descended upon Our Lady. And, of course, the Holy Spirit animates Our Lord. So you have these four individuals filled with the Holy Spirit and giving glory to God. That is the Christian life.
Each one of us is called to holiness. Each one of us is called to give glory to God. Each one of us is called to charity, to follow the pattern that we see in the life of Our Lord, the pattern we see in the life of Our Lady, the pattern that we see laid out for us in the Gospel reading today. It is love of God and love of neighbor, the two greatest commandments fulfilled. Two women, looking out for one another, and two women giving glory to God. That is what we are called to be: to seek the good of one another, and in all things to give glory to God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.