Today the Gospel of the Visitation is read in preparation for Christmas. In recent months the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth has become very dear to me.

Mary receives the great and shocking news that she is going to become the Mother of the “Son of the Most High.” This news is so incomprehensible and so radically interrupts Mary’s humble life that she   finds herself totally alone. How can Joseph or any of her friends or relatives understand her situation? With whom can she share this most intimate knowledge, which remains inexplicable even to herself?

God does not want her to be alone with the new life given to her. The angel says, “your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth months, for nothing is impossible to God” (Luke 1:36-37).

God offers Mary an intimate, human friend with whom she can share what seems incommunicable. Elizabeth, like Marry, has experienced divine intervention and has been called to a response of faith. She can be with Mary in a way no one else possibly could.

Thus, it is understandable that “Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah” (Luke 1:39) to visit Elizabeth.

I am deeply moved by this simple and mysterious encounter. In the midst of an unbelieving, doubting, pragmatic, and cynical world, two women meet each other and affirm in each other the promise given to them. The humanly impossible has happened to them.

God has come to them to begin the salvation promised through the ages. Through these two women God has decided to change the course of history. Who could ever understand? Who could ever believe it? Who could ever let it happen? But Mary says “Let it happen to me,” and she immediately realizes that only Elizabeth will be able to affirm her “yes.” For three months Mary and Elizabeth live together and encourage each other to truly accept the motherhood given to them. Mary’s presence makes Elizabeth more fully aware of becoming the mother of “prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76), and Elizabeth’s presence allows Mary to grow in the knowledge of becoming the mother of the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).

Neither Mary nor Elizabeth had to wait in isolation. They could wait together and thus depend in each other their faith in God, for whom nothing is impossible. Thus, God’s most radical intervention into history was listened to and received in community.

The story of the Visitation teaches me the meaning of friendship and community. How can I ever let God’s grace fully work in my life unless I live in a community of people who can affirm it, deepen it, and strengthen it? We cannot live this new life alone. God does not want to isolate us by His grace. On the contrary, He wants us to form new friendship and a new community – holy places where His grace can grow to fullness and bear fruit.

So often new life appears in the Church because of an encounter. In such encounters two or more people are able to affirm each other in their gifts and encourage each other to “let it happen to them.” In this way, new hope is given to the world.

Elizabeth helped Mary to become the Mother of God. Mary helped Elizabeth to become the mother of her Son’s prophet, John the Baptist. God may choose us individually, but He always wants us to come together to allow His choice to come to maturity.




Pastor Mark   

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