Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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St. Vincent de Paul Church, Fort Wayne

In the beautiful first reading today from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, in just seven verses, we heard 21 exhortations from St. Paul about how we Christians should interact with others, with believers and unbelievers. Don’t worry – I’m not going to talk about all 21 of these exhortations, but I would like to talk about some of them in light of our liturgy today.

First, I was invited to celebrate this Mass here at St. Vincent’s today by John Becker since the Board of Directors of Worldwide Seminarian Support is meeting here today and tomorrow. As you may know, this wonderful apostolate, which is celebrating its 28th anniversary, financially supports the education of seminarians here in our diocese and especially in needy communities around the world like in Tanzania. Parishioners here at St. Vincent’s and the Knights of Columbus Council here have been very generous to this apostolate and I thank you. You have heeded one of St. Paul’s exhortations in today’s reading: “Contribute to the needs of the holy ones.” St. Paul was urging the Christians in Rome to support fellow believers in times of hardship. When he wrote this letter, Paul was leading a campaign to collect donations from his congregations to provide relief to the impoverished church in Jerusalem. Every time we donate to special causes in the Church, like support of seminarian education, we are heeding St. Paul’s exhortation to contribute to the needs of the holy ones. That is one of our duties as Catholics.

St. Paul’s exhortations were guided partly by the counsels of the Old Testament and partly by the words and example of Jesus. But we also see these exhortations lived out in the event of the Visitation, in the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth and their unborn infants. His first exhortation, “let love be sincere,” is seen in Mary going to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth. She went out of love to help her in her pregnancy.

“Be fervent in spirit,” St. Paul says. This means to be enthusiastic to serve. The Gospel tells us that Mary travelled in haste to a town of Judah. She was fervent in spirit. Elizabeth and Zechariah didn’t live in the same region, Galilee. They lived about 90 miles away in the region of Judea. Mary travelled that long distance with haste because she was fervent in the spirit of love and wanted to help and serve her cousin. As Christians we are called to be fervent in spirit, enthusiastic to serve like Mary was.

Another exhortation of St. Paul: “Love one another with mutual affection.” We see the mutual affection of Mary and Elizabeth at the Visitation.

“Anticipate one another in showing honor.” Mary honored Elizabeth by visiting her. Elizabeth