HOMILY – FEAST OF THE VISITATION
(Zeph 3:14-18/Rm 12:9-16; Is 12; Lk 1:39-56)
In his book, Mary – Mirror of the Church, former papal preacher Ranaiero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., offers beautiful insights into role of Mary in the Church.
In his writings, Cantalamessa invites us to make imitation of Mary our priority.
He calls Mary a “Mirror of the Church” because Mary shows us what the church should be like here on earth, and also what it will be like in glory. He underlines four key moments in the mystery of Christianity including the presence of Mary:
The first moment, obviously, is the event of the Incarnation, including the annunciation. Here Mary is a model of faith that trusts totally and leaps into the dark without evidence, and without fully understanding what is happening to and through her. Nevertheless, she is totally open to God’s free gift of grace. Her offer of self or her “fiat” is a “nuptial offering” wedding God’s divinity and our humanity in her womb.
The second moment is the Visitation. This event teaches us faith must express itself in loving action, which is what Mary does with her selfless service to her pregnant cousin Elizabeth for three months. Cantalamesssa stresses imitation of Mary as much as devotion to her. What we need to imitate is her faith which endures in hope, and expresses itself in selfless, practical service of others. Devotion to her should further the work of the Spirit, not replace it, in the life of the Church.
A third moment places Mary at the foot of the Cross. There, Mary shares in the “kenosis,” the self-emptying of Jesus. She feels keenly his humiliation and rejection, and shares in that suffering. Her faith is tested and found to be true to the end – she lovingly accepts this immolation of the victim she herself brought forth and becomes a model of forgiveness – doing at the foot of the Cross what her son Jesus was doing on the Cross. This is a “Mariology” from below – of poverty, simplicity and faith. As John is the symbol of all believers, Mary is the symbol of the Church, our spiritual Mother. As such, she is “Mother of God.”
A fourth moment is Pentecost. Here Mary is a model of prayerful hope and the Church’s need for the Holy Spirit. She is a model of prayer persevering in face of hardships and open to the workings of the Holy Spirit. The silence about her after this event suggests she lived out her life in quiet, simple loving service and contemplative prayer within the Church. Her presence at this event affirms her as “Mother of the Church.” The Pentecost event parallels the Annunciation; first the Spirit is poured upon her, and now it is poured out upon the early Church gathered around her.
As “mirror of the Church,” Mary is a source of hope for us. She is experiencing now what we hope to experience with her some day and is praying for us, for that to happen.
Mary is with us today as we celebrate the Eucharist – sharing her faith in this humble sacrifice that is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet we will share with her for all eternity.
So, on this feast of the Visitation, let us make imitation of Mary our priority, and strive to live out the Eucharist by our love for God and all people.