The Visitation: Mary's Visit to Elizabeth
Jesus and John
Several days ago work had begun clearing out files -- real spring cleaning. There was an unexpected ring of the door bell. Not what was wanted ... the files had been put off for several weeks because it is a job I did not relish but suddenly was in the mood. Opening the door there stood a woman whose name I did not know but whom I immediately identified as fourth pew left side of the church! The way most priests think of those whose name are unknown. It was not a parishioner. It was a lady who came to our church on occasion ... usually on her day of shopping because this parish is situated closer to her supermarket of choice!
I have learned years ago when someone comes unexpectedly and I find it to be an annoying interruption, I immediately turn to the practice a great aunt, a Dominican nun, encouraged me to follow when interrupted. She taught me "If it is a man, in your heart say 'Welcome, Jesus.' If it is a woman, 'Welcome, Mary, what a delightful surprise.'"
Do you think Elizabeth might have had the same thought what she heard someone at the door of her home? Surely, it seems, she was not expecting a visit from her cousin. Read again the words of greeting the two women shared. Maybe Elizabeth was preparing a meal for Joseph who was nearby building a cabinet or a table for someone. Then again, maybe she was delighted to have a change of pace from a busy morning.
Despite what she may have been doing, it was clear that Elizabeth was "filled with the Holy Spirit," as St. Luke tells us. (Mary must have shared her feelings at sometime or another with the apostles, don't you think?) And he further tells us that John "leaped for joy in her womb." (Again, information that might have been shared with a man who was apostle and doctor.) If you slowly read their words of greeting, what is clear is that these two women are like many women who daily populated our pews for morning Masses: they magnify the Lord, they rejoice in God our Savior.
This event and Luke's sharing the story provides us with the opportunity to look into the days of pregnancy of women who so often find time to share the wonders of creation that they are carrying in their wombs. They know well despite that times of pain or discomfort, they are indeed like a tabernacle, housing in their bodies the God's gift of life. For us who are men. especially those of us who are not husbands, perhaps this event might be for us a time to deepen our appreciation for women during their pregnancy. Just try to imagine the conversations that must have occurred during the three months that Mary was with Elizabeth especially those talking moments between two women very different in age and experience! Surely for us all the Visitation is one of those roadways we can walk, learning much with each step.