Legion of Mary Mass

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Legion of Mary Mass
16 March 2013

With our focus today on the Blessed Virgin Mary, understandably enough, there is something of a Christmas feel about the readings, given the most significant involvement in the Christmas event of Mary as the Mother of Jesus. We are told that at some stage in the future, a virgin would give birth to a son and his name would be Emmanuel, which has the meaning of God with us.

Prior to the birth of Jesus, Mary undertook the long and arduous journey , now known as the Visitation of St. Elizabeth,  her much older cousin. The distance between Nazareth, where Mary lived and Ein Karim, where Elizabeth lived was 185 kilometres, about the same distance between Hobart and Perth on the road to Launceston. While we do the journey in the comfort of a modern, air-conditioned car, Mary had to make the journey on foot, and she was herself expecting a baby at the time.

The gesture of making a visit has a profound significance – that for the visitor, there is no one else more important for the moment at least, than the one who is being visited. Phone calls, emails, text messages, fax messages are helpful, but they are never an adequate substitute for the personal visit, one to another.

I was reading recently about the village of Ein Karem where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived, and where John the Baptist was born. It stands in an elevated position not far outside Jerusalem. Naturally it is a place where tourists visit when travelling to the Holy Land.

In a small church in the town, not the main church apparently,  there is a painting on the front wall, depicting the scene of the Visitation. The two women in the picture are presented as being peasant women, both pregnant, seen greeting each other. The message that comes from the picture is one of smallness, littleness, obscurity, a small community in a quiet village. Nothing suggests that either of them, or anything they are doing or carrying, is out of the ordinary or of much significance.

But that is the genius of the painting. It leads people to ask the question,  how could it be that these two women, in this obscure town, in this obscure place, at this obscure time, were carrying inside of themselves something that would radically and forever change the world?

But that is the truth of the matter. What these two women, in this quiet hill-top town were carrying inside of them would one day change history more than any army, any philosopher, and artist, any King of Queen, or any entertainment star. They were preparing for the birth of the Christ and the Prophet. These births changed the world radically. Living as we do at the end of the year 2012, that is still the truth.

The lesson is that we can never underrate someone living in seeming obscurity, who is actually pregnant with promise. We must never under-estimate the impact in history of silent, hidden gestation. It is not an easy lesson to learn.

Within each of us there is a deep restlessness which can only be stilled when we somehow are able to balance the pressure which pushes us to be known, to make a difference, to make our lives count in terms of the big picture. Our longing is often to do the big things, things that will go beyond the boundaries of the small town. We may feel that we have so much to give, but that world does not know enough about us.

What we need to bring us some peace, is what is expressed in that painting in the Church of the Visitation.  We are people with hope. In the obscurity and dust of our small towns and within the frustration of lives that will away seem too small for us, we become pregnant with hope, and after a long gestation, we bring that hope to full term.

It is through Mary that God is seen to keep the promise announced through the prophet Micah so long ago. The promise of God will take flesh in Mary and be formed into the person of Jesus. God just does not make promises, but  also keeps them. In Mary and indeed in Elizabeth as well, we see two people who allow the promises of God to shape them and the direction of their whole lives.

I wish to thank you once again for your readiness to go out to people and to visit them in their homes and to bring something of the love of Jesus and the example of Mary to many in our community, particularly those who are Catholics and who find it difficult to stay in contact with the wider Church community.

It is always important, but particularly at this time of the year, to remember the way in which God visited his people in the person of Jesus, his son, and that through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, we have a perfect reminder of the love God has for us. It is that message that we try to convey to others through our example and through our apostolic initiatives such as you undertake as members of the Legion of Mary.