The Visitation

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/12/04 at 12:00 AM

 The Gospel of Luke tells us that, immediately upon hearing that she will conceive and bear the Christ Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary sets out to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who has conceived a child in her old age.
 Presented with the most important task in human history by no less than the Archangel Gabriel, the task of bearing the Messiah, Mary turns not inwardly upon herself. Rather, she charitably goes to help out her elderly relative who is 6 months pregnant.
 Although she has been the recipient of the greatest promise our Lord has ever made with mankind, the Virgin Mary thinks not of herself for even a moment. Pride, even in its subtlest forms, has no place in that virginal mind or virginal heart.
 Instead Mary humbly makes a promise, in turn, to help her relative Elizabeth in her need.
 Keep in mind that this promise of the Messiah is a promise that the entire Jewish people had
been awaiting for generations, a promise spoken of by the prophets of old – as we hear in our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah.

 Knowing the Scriptures as she did, the significance of what our Lord was asking her was not
lost on Mary. Our Lady understood, even at her young age, that she was to become the one through whom the long-awaited promise of a Messiah would be fulfilled.

 So Mary goes to Elizabeth, who confirms and rejoices that Mary is indeed the mother of their
Savior as St. John the Baptist leaps in her womb.

 And in an act of gratitude that recalls the long-awaited hopes of her people, Mary proclaims
to the Lord in her Magnificat: “You have remembered your promise of mercy, the promise of mercy You made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”

 In that moment the ancient longing for a Savior felt deep within the hearts of all Jewish
people found satisfaction in the hearts of those saintly women, anticipating the joy of Easter.

 With this Mass we enter once again into the beautiful and solemn season of Advent, which is
the time of year in which we recall this promise our Lord made with Israel.

 Blessed Pope John Paul II referred to the Jews as our “older brothers in the faith of
Abraham,” which means that their spiritual history is, in a manner of speaking, our spiritual history.

 Indeed, the Israelites of old prefigured the Church of Christ and found their fulfillment in the
Church of Christ.

 And just as the Israelites of old looked forward with great expectation to the coming of the
Messiah promised to them so long ago, Advent is our time of longing for our Savior.

 In Advent we give thanks that this promise of a Messiah was fulfilled 2000 years ago, but we
also await the promise of our Lord’s second coming at the end of time.

 We hear about the first of these promises in the reading from Jeremiah. In speaking to His
prophet Jeremiah, our Lord promises that He will “raise up for David a just shoot; [One who] shall do what is right and just in the land.”

 The just shoot, of course, is none other than Jesus, born of the lineage of King David.
 With regard to this promise made by our Lord long ago, the Season of Advent is our time to give thanks. It’s a time to recall how the world was in darkness before Christ, who is the Light of the World, came as a lowly child born of the Virgin Mary.

 Moreover, Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to receive the Christ Child anew at Christmas so that He may be incarnate in the world once again through us.

 But there is a second promise that our Lord has made to us that has yet to be fulfilled: the promise that He will come again in glory at the end of time with salvation for His people. It’s this second coming of Christ that we hear about in today’s Gospel.
 We are told that the Son of Man will come “in a cloud with power and great glory.” We are told that, “there will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”
 And when this happens we are told not to be afraid, but to stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand!
 While many “people will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world”, we who know the Redeemer, who long for the Redeemer, will be rejoicing in His victory over sin and death.
 Thus, Advent is at its heart, a season of watchful preparation. It is symbolic of the prayerful posture that we should always have with our Lord, much like the aged Simeon who greeted the Holy Family when Jesus was presented in the Temple shortly after His birth.
 Our Lord promised Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Luke describes him as being: “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel” (cf. Luke 2:25). We are called to be the same way as we await our Lord’s arrival: prayerful, hopeful, and joyful.
 In today’s world, we tend to experience Advent as a time of parties and indulgence.
 In our secular society today we see this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a
generic “holiday season” that includes any holiday anyone wants to make up. In its decadence secular society has gutted Advent of its proper meaning.

 Instead of filling ourselves with hope as we joyfully await our Lord’s coming, secular society
tempts us to fill ourselves with the mammon of this world, which can – if we let it – blunt and dull our love for our Lord, or even extinguish it altogether.

 While it can be difficult to fight such strong cultural currents, we should nevertheless strive
to experience Advent as a period of longing, a period of watchful preparation.

 This we do by making extra time for prayer and meditation during Advent, by doing works
of charity, by going to confession, and by practicing a little quiet restraint and penance in preparation for the great feast of Christmas.

 You’ll note that with Advent we once again don the color violet, the color of penance and
contrition for our sins. Historically, Advent has been a penitential season in preparation for Christmas, just as Lent is a penitential season in preparation for Easter.

 But the purpose of our penance is not so much to deny ourselves the goodies of the season in
puritanical fashion. Our fasting and penance this time of year is meant to cultivate within our souls a true hunger for our Lord so that we might joyfully await His arrival.

 So just as the Israelites of old waited with great longing for their Savior, we must do the
same. We must cultivate within our hearts the great longing for Jesus to come again by our prayer, fasting, acts of charity, and the humble confessing of our sins.

 By living Advent in this way, we can learn, as St. Paul says to the Thessalonians, “to be
blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus” so that we will enjoy the promise of salvation He makes to all who love Him.

 So my dear brothers and sisters, by all means, bake your cookies, buy and wrap your gifts,
mail your Christmas cards, and enjoy all the parties and get-togethers with your family, friends and co-workers.

 But in the busyness of this season, do not neglect to prepare yourself spiritually for the great feast that is upon us. Cultivate that sense of longing for our Lord that is proper to those who love Him, and prepare your soul well for His coming!
 With St. Simeon and Our Lady as our models for preparing ourselves, may our Lord find all of us eager for His presence and worthy of His mercy when He comes!
02 December 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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