A Lesson Not to Be Forgotten

A Lesson Not to Be Forgotten

On Friday 31 May 2024 we celebrated the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her kinswoman St Elizabeth. The feast is so beautiful because it focuses on the gift of the Holy Spirit who unites these two pregnant women together.

In fact, both women are protagonists in the unfolding of the salvific plan of God. On the one hand we have Mary, who was pregnant with the much awaited Messiah, Jesus, the handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1:38) while on the other hand we have Elizabeth, who was pregnant with his forunner, John the Baptist, who in her old age  also conceived a sonand this is the sixth month with her who was called barren (Lk 1:36). At the obvious question: “How this is possible?” God’s answer is the following: For with God nothing will be impossible (Lk 1:37).

It is this unshakeable faith which works miracles. Later on within the same Gospel Jesus would work the greatest healing of all, the forgiveness of sins, and this because of complete faith (see Luke 5:20). In fact, this faith led to the people to bring the paralyzed man from the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus (Luke 5:19). Then the Lukan text tells us: And when he saw their faith he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you” (Luke 5:20).

But who can give us this great faith? The Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians St Paul, while talking about the fruits of the Spirit, he mentions the powerful fruit of faith which he refers to as faithfulness (Gal 5:22). Faith and faithfulness are one and the same thing. Their underlying basis is constant belief and trust in God no matter what the situation is. Most of all, the gift of faith helps us discover God’s supreme place in our lives as well as our place as little creatures but also as his beloved sons and daughters. This very fact makes us rejoice! St Bede the Venerable has an interesting sermon on this point which we also read as the second reading in the office of readings for the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race.

When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power and greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation.

These words are suitable for all God’s creations, but especially for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.

For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.

She did well to add: and holy is his name, to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the name she spoke of earlier: and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.

When we praise God for what He does in and through us we acknowledge the special gifts He endowed us with. In our praise the Holy Spirit keeps reminding us of the great favours God has bestowed upon us. The more we recognize his greatness the more we feel inclined to live the mission he has entrusted us to fulfil, much like Mary and Elizabeth. As our faithful devotion grows deeper, hope shines in and through us. All of a sudden St Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans become crystal clear to all of us: We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom 8:28-30).

Let us always thank the Lord who is all merciful and faithful because he fulfils his wonders through the little ones and the poor. These are the ones who really rely on his power. In his Angelus address of 15 August 2017 Pope Francis told us: 

The Magnificat praises the merciful and faithful God who accomplishes his plan of salvation through the little ones and the poor, through those who have faith in him, who trust in his Word as did Mary. Here is the exclamation of Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). In that house, the coming of Jesus through Mary created not only a climate of joy and fraternal communion, but also a climate of faith that leads to hope, prayer, and praise. We would like to have all of this happen today in our homes too.

Let us ask the Lord to help us remember and live faithfully the great lesson he teaches us through the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth: Faith. Lord Jesus, increase my faith. Amen.

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap