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Thoughts to Live by | The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (May 31)

by Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo, O.M.I, Archbishop-Emeritus of Cotabato

Liturgy of the Word

Zephania 3:14-18 or Romans 12: 9-16

Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

Luke 1:39-56

1. Some Notes on the Visitation -- The feastday goes back to the 13th century. Liturgically, the Visitation is set between the time when Mary conceived Jesus and the time when John the Baptist was born. The early scenes of Luke's Gospel are stories of Annunciation, prophecy, and revelation. The angel Gabriel announces the birth of the Christ Child to Mary and reveals to her the pregnancy of her relative, Elizabeth.The angel also announces the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah. And Zechariah, with restored speech, himself prophesies about his son. The prophets Simeon and Anna reveal significant things about Jesus. Revelations also take place at the Visitation.

Mary and Elizabeth by Piero di Cosimo | National Gallery of Art

2. 1st Reading - Zephaniah 3:14-18 -- The Prophet Zephaniah or Sophonias (in the Septuagint), one of the 12 Minor Prophets, prophesied in the days of King Josiah of Judah (640-609 BC). His book has only 3 chapters. Verses 1- 13 of Chapter 3 speak of God's condemnation of the city of Jerusalem, its moral and religious corruption, and its idolatry (vv. 1-7). Zephaniah tells of the destruction of nations (vv. 8-11). On the other hand, he prophesies the deliverance of Jerusalem, with a "a remnant, a humble and lowly people" (v. 12).

3. Today's 1st Reading is a paean of joy for Jerusalem. "Shout for joy, daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem!" (v.14). The Lord has turned away your enemies. "The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no misfortune to fear" (v. 15). "The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will renew you in his love" (v. 17; see also Zep. 2:19; 3:8, 11, 13-15).

4. Isaiah had predicted that God would dwell among the people of Zion (see Is. 11:1-2, 10-11; 12:1, 6). He spoke of "the virgin daughter of Zion" (Is. 37:22). These verses of Isaiah are fulfilled in Mary, the virgin full of grace. She is the true daughter of Zion, in whose womb dwells God's own Son and through whom God becomes present among the people (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 722).

5. Responsorial - Isaiah. 12:2-3, 4, 5-6 -- A Song of Thanksgiving. "God, indeed, is my salvation. I am confident and unafraid. For the Lord is my strength and my might. With joy, you will draw waters from the fountains of salvation" (vv. 2-3). "Give thanks to the Lord.... praise how exalted is his name" (v. 4). "Sing praise to the Lord for he has done glorious things.... Shout with exultation, city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!" (vv. 5-6).

6. Gospel - Luke 1:39-56 -- The angel Gabriel reveals to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is 6 months with child (vv. 36-37). So, Mary travels in haste "to the hill country to a town of Judah" and the house of Zechariah (vv. 38-39). She greets Elizabeth.

7. "Filled with the Holy Spirit," Elizabeth cries out, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (vv. 40-44).

8. Before being told by anyone, Elizabeth already knows that Mary is with child; that the child is the Lord; that, therefore, the child is most blessed, and that Mary is the most blessed among women. The encounter between two women, one old and sterile and the other a young maiden and a virgin, but both miraculously pregnant, is a historic moment of revelation.

9. The babies also have a beautiful encounter. The baby John, also filled with the Holy Spirit like his mother, becomes aware of Christ's presence in Mary's womb. He jumps for joy, a sign of his Baptism as some scholars say. Mary thus becomes the bringer of joy and healing, Mary's first exercise of her gift as Mediatrix.

10. And Mary sings her magnificent Magnificat, that stirring song of praise and gratitude for the wondrous deeds the Lord has done for Mary and for the humble and lowly. The Magnificat needs a separate Reflection.

11. Prayer -- Almighty and ever-living God, you inspired Mary, while still carrying your Son in her womb, to visit Elizabeth. Grant us, we pray, that we may be aware and be faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and magnify your greatness and mercy. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Today's Collect Adapted).

Prayers, stay safe, God bless!

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