Homily for the Feast of the Visitation of the BVM to Elizabeth
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
The Convent of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 1:39-56
“…And Mary remained with her about three months.”
-- Luke 1:56
There are times in our lives when we need the counsel, friendship, and companionship of someone wiser than us. In the early days of our faith journey, the seed of faith that grows within our hearts can set before us what may seem like frightening burdens amidst all the hopeful potentialities of an unfolding life of faith. A heart strangely warmed is but one moment in birth of faith. Standing at the beginning of the road of unknown mystery is another.
There is no need to rehearse the social setting of Mary’s surprising pregnancy. We all know the societal judgments under which she would stand condemned. Furthermore, our Lady’s enthusiastic “yes” to the announcement of the Angel Gabriel, like a heart strangely warmed by the seed of faith, would most assuredly have as its companion the common travelers known as doubt and fear. Thus, she turned, as so many of us have in such times to someone who could mentor her, counsel her, and journey with her on the unfolding road ahead. She turned to a wise woman, her cousin Elizabeth to be her shepherd through the valley of her uncertain journey.
I recall, many years ago now, in the very early days of my unfolding sense of vocation, I sought the counsel of a wise man. Under the direction of another mentor, who sensed a burgeoning vocation even before I had, I was sent to the old convent on Botham road, to visit a certain Bishop Henry Hill. In the early days of an unfolding and frightening call, and a journey that would last some twelve years before I was ordained, this wise and generous older man opened his arms and his heart to a frightened younger man who clung only to the seed of faith growing within him and was facing an uncertain call into an uncertain future.
There are many who have crossed the threshold of this convent with similar stories. Each story is unique in its own way, but I would not be surprised if most shared a common thread, the heart strangely warmed and uncertainty about what that means. Many have come, men and women in all the stages of life, seeking mentors, companions, counsel, and friends for the journey. They come, as Mary did, seeking the companionship of wise women who will greet them with words, “come in and simply ‘be’ amongst us.”
There is a detail of this story, though, that is never to be forgotten, namely, that for even the wisest amongst us nurture still the seed of faith within them. Even as the journey is long and we find ourselves having journeyed farther down that road, God imparts to us, as he did to Elizabeth new gifts, new surprises -- often new and rather shocking surprises. Thus, when young Mary comes to stay with Elizabeth she is met by a friend and companion who is also journeying the same road… a little farther along perhaps; perhaps with a little more perspective, a little more experience, but the same road nonetheless. Ultimately, what Mary and Elizabeth learn in their shared journey is that they need each other. And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months.
They day would come when Elizabeth would be gathered up into the company of her long departed mothers and Mary would find herself further down that road. At the foot of the cross, her dying Son would gaze down upon her and that beloved disciple and commend them to each other, “Woman behold your son; son behold your mother.” In the sorrow of that day she would hold and console that young man, and indeed an infant church, who she collectively held in her embrace and whose tears would flow against her bosom. And as the Resurrection light of Easter broke through, she would once again feel her heart strangely warmed, and be startled by the surprising road opening ever before her. As she pondered these things in her heart she would turn to find many rushing to her, as the seed of an infant faith grew within them, and questions, fears and doubts rushed over them. Wise woman as she was, her faith would then leap within her at their coming, and she would journey with them on the Gospel road, a companion, a friend, a wise woman of faith.
Copyright 2009 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves