Tuesday May 31, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Visitation
Reading (Romans 12:9-16) Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-56)
When we hear the words of Saint Paul in the first reading today from his Letter to the Romans, we see perfectly described the situation of our Blessed Lady. First of all, Saint Paul says, Let your love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection. So perfectly did Our Lady love these things that she was able to receive the greatest gift that has ever been given to a human being, that is, Jesus Himself. She loved the good so perfectly that the true Good, God Himself, was able to be incarnate within her womb. Her love was so perfect that she was united perfectly with love, Love Himself, that is.
But it is something that goes beyond just that, as we celebrate in this feast today. Once Our Lady had received this extraordinary gift of love, she did in return exactly what had been done for her. That is, just as God in His mercy had come down from heaven to the womb of our Blessed Lady, so now our Blessed Mother, the highest of all human creatures, once this gift had been given and she learned about her cousin Elizabeth, immediately went to her. Just as Our Lord had come to Our Lady, so Our Lady will go now to Elizabeth.
In the mystery of what takes place at this visitation, we see the two children within the wombs of their mothers communicating one to another. We see Our Lord giving, through Our Lady’s voice, the word which causes Saint John the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb. We hear of Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Spirit and crying out in a loud voice all of the things that were true, that Mary is the Mother of our Lord. And she was able to recognize that even before she knew that Our Lady was with child. She called Our Lady “most blessed among women.” She called “blessed” the fruit of Our Lady’s womb, and then questioned, How is it that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? Imagine what Our Lady, at that point, had been pondering for an eighty-mile journey down there: Who am I that my Lord should come to me?
We see how charity operates. Once we recognize what true charity is, then we have an obligation in return to practice it. Well, this gift of the Visitation continues because Our Lord continues to give Himself to each one of us. And each one of us, having received this gift of Jesus in the Eucharist, must then take this gift out into the world. Like Our Lady, when we receive this gift and say, “Who am I that my Lord should come to me?” then we need to be able to bring Him to others. We do not keep Jesus just for ourselves, but we want the same gift to be given to all. In this gift, we have to recognize the true Good, the perfect Love, Who is God Himself. Then we are the ones who have to love sincerely, to hate what is evil, to cling to what is truly good. Saint Paul goes on to talk about how we have to anticipate one another in mutual affection and in showing honor.
It is exactly what Our Lady did. She went to Elizabeth. Then look at what Elizabeth does. Immediately – rather than focusing on herself – she is focusing on Our Lady. That is what real love and true honor toward one another is about. It is two people looking out for one another’s good, neither one looking out for their own good. Here are two women to whom extraordinary gifts have been given. Elizabeth, well beyond the normal time of childbearing, suddenly receives a son miraculously. Our Lady receives her Son miraculously. We are told that everyone in the neighborhood around Elizabeth was wondering about this extraordinary event, and yet Elizabeth does not focus on herself. She does not say to Our Lady, “Look what the Lord has done for me!” And Our Lady does not say that to Elizabeth either. Both focus on the other. Both anticipate one another in showing honor. Both love with a pure and perfect love.
That is what our lives are to be about. It is about charity. We have received perfect charity, and we do everyday when we receive Holy Communion. Now the question is within our own selves. How do we respond to that gift of charity? When we receive Our Lord, we must learn from our Blessed Lady to be able take Him out into the world, to learn to be selfless, to learn to truly love, so that we focus on the good of the other and bring Jesus into the world and into the hearts of those who need Him the most.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.