Homily – December 23, 2018

News didn’t travel fast in those days but when Mary heard the astounding news of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy she went in haste to be with her to help her in any way she could. There were bound to be complications, Elizabeth was up in years, she was as old as Mary was young and both were involved in God’s great plan.

The trip from Nazareth in Galilee where Mary lived to a village in Judea where Elizabeth lived would take days. Since travel alone was not safe, people commonly joined a caravan. Headed to wherever they wanted to go. We can just imagine the young Mary hastening on foot over dirt and rough roads, probably under a hot sun. Mary doesn’t give a thought to the difficulty of the journey. She wanted to help Elizabeth, that’s all that mattered.

There can be many ways of looking at this gospel. Both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s pregnancies were out of the ordinary. Elizabeth was well beyond child bearing but she was important in God’s plan. Her son John would prepare the way for Mary’s son Jesus. Elizabeth sensed something special in her niece and wondered, ‘who am I that the mother of my Lord comes to me, declaring ‘blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ Both share the wonders of their pregnancy. Both their sons would suffer painful deaths, John beheaded, Jesus crucified.

Our gospel is from the Feast of the Visitation, a feast on which we remember Mary’s act of concern and kindness toward her cousin, Elizabeth. What we learn from today’s gospel. To what does it challenges us?

There was a song out years ago and the refrain was, ‘where were you when I needed you, where were you? Young Mary was right there when her cousin Elizabeth needed her. In today’s gospel Mary answers the question of the song, ‘where were you when I needed you? I’m right here, I’m with you.

Is there someone in our lives, a spouse, a son or daughter, an in-law, a relative, a neighbour who might be asking us – where were you – I need you. Do we ever wonder about what a phone call, an e-mail, a visit can mean to such a person? What a gift we can be.

Pope Paul VI referred to Mary as ‘she whose life was available to God. In the gospel we hear that both Mary’s life and Elizabeth’s life were available to God. Each in her own way said, ‘be it done to me according to your word.’

Think on this. Our lives are available to God to the extent that we are available, when we find the time and make the time to be available to those who need us; need us to listen, need us to understand, need us to help them in any way we can. Where were you when I needed you? Can we say –I’m right here, I’m with you.