The Visitation

A chain reaction of love

December 19, 2021 
Fourth Sunday of Advent  (Year C) 

Fr Paolo Consonni MCCJ

Women know well that pregnancy is a very profound experience which cannot be merely described in biological terms. Neurologists are mapping with increased clarity the complex process of development of the nervous system of the fetus which starts at the very early stages of the pregnancy. What we felt in our mothers’ womb, though largely relegated into the unconscious, might have a lasting effect on the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

It is not surprising then to read in this Sunday’s Gospel that “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” (Lk 1:41) I can only imagine how influential this encounter might have been in the life and vocation of John the Baptist. He lived as if he were trying to pinpoint who was the source of the joy he had experienced as a fetus on that special day. He did it relentlessly, with undivided attention (hence his asceticism) and once he recognized in Jesus the One sent by God, he put all of his life at His service.

Any vocation is a search for the source of our lasting joy, because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (27) puts it, “the desire for God is written in the human heart … and God never ceases to draw man [here meaning all humanity, man and women] to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for”. That beatitude which is God himself is the goal of human existence and the ultimate end of human acts” (1718).

The severity of the ascetic life of John the Baptist only underscores the urgency of carrying on with intensity and discipline this search of the spring of living water which alone can quench the thirst for what gives meaning to our living, loving and dying, lest we disperse our energies in “digging out cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13). We know how catastrophic are the effects of the joyless spiritual drought which regularly affects persons and societies.

The “haste” with which Mary set out to visit Elisabeth (Lk 1:39) also underlines the same urgency. Like a stream which carries precious water to parched lands, after the Annunciation Mary immediately brings the Good News of God’s coming to those thirsting for God’s truth and happiness. The visit of Mary to  Elisabeth signifies God coming to visit His people in order to show the way to this genuine happiness.

Mary’s haste also reveals her “enthusiastic” participation in God’s plan of salvation. The etymology of the word “enthusiasm” (熱心,熱忱) in Greek means “immersed in God’s essence” (深入神的實質内). But enthusiasm can be very very superficial. Mary however did not stop to the blissful sensory aspect of her experience during the Annunciation (“the Lord is with me!”), but instead she translated it into an immediate action which reflects God’s nature: to set out to give hope, to bring redemption, to involve everyone into a saving plan of love. Not a passing enthusiasm, but a life-long total commitment.

I finally appreciate the remark that, upon hearing Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth too was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:41). Try to think of it: John felt the Holy Spirit through the body of his mother Elisabeth who received it through Mary who was pregnant with Jesus. Truly, a chain reaction of love. God’s gifts, though a variety of charisms, are for everyone. When we answer with generosity to God who is daily visiting our life, we too can spend our life with lasting enthusiasm and bring Christ to a world which thirsts for love, for meaning and for joy. A vocation which is a call to immediate action, with no delay.