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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Associate Barbara McGrattan

Today’s Gospel is the Visitation passage. This, of course, is the pivotal story that led to the foundation of the Congregation of Notre Dame in imitation of the uncloistered and journeying Mary. In this experience Mary and Elizabeth illustrate the fundamental issue in the life of faith: seeking the will of God in relationships and in our daily encounters. 

We each have our own “visitations” through the routine events of our lives; however, each “visitation” is really a “visitation” from God. We are connecting with another in some form that goes beyond the superficial. In my spiritual direction sessions this becomes very evident to me as folks open themselves up to the mystery, the angst, the confusion, and the fear that prevents them from moving closer to God. If they go deeply enough to touch their woundedness, they may eventually be able to trust in God’s providence. Yet, they need to share these profound experiences, to encounter the grace of God acting in their lives.

Mary and Elizabeth both had an experience of mystery, uncertainty, confusion and I am sure some fear but they also trusted God. Mary needed to meet Elizabeth to receive confirmation about being on track with God’s will. Elizabeth acted as a spiritual companion for Mary. Elizabeth, of course, needed to see for herself that she was also to play a divine part in the unfolding of salvation history.

Don’t we feel this reciprocity in our “visitations”? Don’t we just know and feel to the core of our soul that God has entered our experiences of “visitation”? Mary and Elizabeth both shared what was happening in their lives to come to understand the significance. We are no different. And when the divine insight, the questioning and reframing between people leads to true awakening, don’t we want to rejoice with each other and desire to bring this joy to others? Like the Magnificat expressed between Mary and Elizabeth, don’t we want to celebrate when we are vulnerable enough to allow the other to carry us for a brief or extended period of time until we are healed enough to allow God to carry us forward?

Mary and Elizabeth were both healed in their “visitation”. They were no longer alone nor felt shame in their unusual pregnancies.  As Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, says ”…make Christ a vital part of your life… for he came: to touch lives—to break bread— to heal hurt—to forgive sins—to wash feet—to calm seas— to walk on water—to give us the Spirit and to care immensely.” It is nearly Christmas…”what part of you is crippled or where do you need to feel God’s saving power?” “It is an offer. It is a mystery. It is a birth. It is hope. It is Christmas and God can never be born enough…”

“Where do you need to be healed this Christmas?” For me, I am transitioning from feeling like a failure in the collapse of my marriage, to experiencing freedom for a deeper life with God.  Just like Mary and Elizabeth, we are invited to experience, with God’s grace, our unfolding journey. Winter is the season of waiting, so what are you waiting for? Where can Christ be born again in you or where can you bring Christ to others? May each of our journeys be full of wonder and awe at God’s infinite yet also incarnate love for us and may our joy be evident through the witness of our journeying lives in “visitation” with others!


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