Romans 12:9-16; Luke 1:39-56
They call it stage presence in the theatre; in movies, star quality. We may know it as charisma, or perhaps in French as je ne sais quoi. By whatever name, it is that “certain something” that some people seem to be born with and others long to acquire, that ability to command attention from the moment they step into the scene. Today, as we meditate on the scene in Sacred Scripture we call the Visitation, we see that even from the womb our Blessed Lord has the ability to make his presence felt.
Of course, the first to feel the presence of Christ is Mary, his mother. Paul reminded us in the first reading that we are to let love be sincere… to love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor (Romans 12:9-10). Soon after learning that she is pregnant with the Son of God, Mary goes “in haste” to visit Elizabeth, pregnant with His forerunner. The most sincere love, the deepest honor Mary could show, was to bring her the very presence of Christ. This is what mission in the Church has always been: the desire to bring Christ to people and allow Him to move them in His own inscrutable ways.
John is the first to be moved, and that literally. Research shows that infants of his age in the womb hear and react to all kinds of sounds around them. For John, already gifted with great sensitivity to the divine presence, the mere sound of Mary’s voice was enough to animate him and send him into ecstasy. From the moment he was filled with the Holy Spirit, John became the epitome of St. Paul’s words, Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord (Romans 12:11). John would serve Christ to the death.
Mary’s greeting also moved Elizabeth. When St. Paul said, Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer (Romans 12:12), it almost seems as if he was thinking of her. For many years Elizabeth endured the affliction of barrenness; nevertheless, as a righteous daughter of Aaron she also persevered in prayer (Luke 1:5-7). Now, she reaped the reward of rejoicing in the presence of Christ who is Hope and filled with the Holy Spirit was privileged to be the first to call Mary the Mother of our Lord (Luke 1:43).
The first reading closes with this exhortation from St. Paul: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation (Romans 12:15-16). What better or more fitting words are there to describe her whose very soul rejoices in God, her Savior? In the fullness of the grace bestowed on her as a singular gift of God and there visiting Elizabeth and pregnant with the Christ-child, Mary is the very answer to the question Nathanael would ask, “Can anything good come from Nazareth (John 1:46)?” Anything good, indeed! Only she, who by her fiat consented to bring the world Goodness itself; she, not wise in the world’s estimation yet wise enough to leave us with the best advice a mother could tell her children, Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5).