Signs of summer are everywhere! Sunshine, patio furniture taken out, the barbecue being fired up, shedding of jackets and winter coats - elements that everyone looks forward to. These signs all point to a time of relaxation and an opportunity to vacation, maybe enjoy the water, have a picnic, and maybe even slow down and take a break.
But wait a minute! It's still spring and the business of spring remains unfinished. There is growth and new life waiting for us as we consider the gift of mothers and the motherhood of Mary. Moving into the marvelous month of May engenders a sense of gratitude for both the women in our lives that we have been privileged to call, "mom" and the motherhood of our heavenly mother, Mary of Nazareth.
The Church gives us a special feast of Mary on the last day of May, the feast of the Visitation to crown the month and serve as a bridge to the refreshing liturgical life of the summer months. In this tender episode found in the Gospel of Luke (1:39-56), the Blessed Mother travels in haste to the hill country of Judah right after she discovers that she is to be the mother of Christ. Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who although advanced in age, is soon to give birth to John the Baptist.
The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth is a tender and life-giving one. It is easy to imagine the two women greeting one another with a warm hug, and even more likely that Mary, although with child, and much younger, immediately began to help Elizabeth prepare for the arrival of her baby.
At Mary's arrival, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leapt for joy, recognizing the presence of Christ. In this scene the glory of motherhood becomes so alive, and each woman recognizes the presence of God in the other. Beauty, goodness and wisdom are evident in what was surely an affectionate meeting of two women who cared deeply for each other. Elizabeth exclaims to Mary, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Mary responds with her Magnificat, her prayer of praise which gives God glory and praise for every good she experiences.
The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth demonstrates the sacrificial love and support of mothers. In these two great women from Scripture we are reminded of our own mothers who loved us into life, and who nurtured and supported us. Mary and Elizabeth's affection for one another is genuine and their love for the life within them is real. They understand in a profound way, the gift of God in their midst.
The Visitation serves as a reminder that situations sometimes require us to go out of our way to help others as Mary did for Elizabeth. In moments of spiritual awareness, encounter with others becomes encounter with Christ. From time to time, our response makes a difference and we can be bearers of new life.
Moving into summer, we too may travel in haste to visit friends and relatives. Mary and Elizabeth understood that God had visited them. When God visits us will we know?