Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 4th Sunday of Advent

Mic 5:1-4 • Heb 10:5-10 • Lk 1:39-45

To Know How To Visit

Johnny had a motorcycle accident three years ago. As a result his right leg was amputated above the knee. He became known in the locality as "Punkol, the maimed one," as he hobbled around using a crutch. People pitied him. He appreciated their kindness but felt deeply hurt at being an object of pity. Children sometimes jeered him; this was painful but he sometime went along with it to get attention; it was better to be jeered than to go unnoticed.

And then there was the VISIT. Tony, a distant cousin, returned from the United states and dropped in on the family. Johnny was not expecting anything from the visit and sat in a place where his stub would be concealed. Before leaving Tony called Johnny aside. "Gaw, (Cousin)," he asked, "would you like to walk again?" "It is my dream most nights. But it is impossible!" said Johnny. "How about an artificial leg?" asked Tony. "I asked about one," said Johnny, "The cheapest one is 15,000.00. Even 15.00 is big money for me. No way. Since I lost my leg and my job, life has been really hard for me and my wife and my child." "The artificial leg will be my advance Christmas gift to you," said Tony. Not only was Johnny walking for Christmas, but he also got his self confidence and his job back. We will never forget that VISIT. The story of Johnny could be a modern version of a Gospel miracle.

In the Bible we often read of God coming into someone's life through a visit of an angel or of a human being. The Gospel of St. Luke begins with an angel visiting Zechariah and another visiting Mary to bring them the news of the extraordinary conception of their children, John and Jesus, respectively. Zechariah declares in his canticle "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel because he has visited his people and set them free." More than half of the Gospel of St Luke is telling about Jesus visiting people, having meals with them, and then something happens. Visits are signs of love. One wants to visit the person one loves. Very often something happens in a visit. A new relationship is set up. A new plan is hatched, a problem is solved. We find Jesus curing the lepers as he visits a town. As he visits Caphernaum he cures the centurion's servant and at Nain he brings the son of the widow back to life. He scandalizes the Pharisees by often eating at the homes of people who, to them, were sinners. Not all visits are at first successful. Jesus' final visit to Jerusalem was apparently a disaster - he received no hospitality, only crucifixion and death. But resurrection came from this death.

Today's Gospel records a very special visit; that of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The story is often used to point out Mary's charity, her reaching out to the need of another. Having often observed the special depth and vivacity with which pregnant women talk to one another, I see the story first of all as a story about Mary's humanness. She wanted to share the wonder and joy and mystery of the new life within her, and who would be more receptive to hear her, than someone who was having the same experience. But she was also carrying the saviour of the world and Elizabeth was carrying John, the precursor. As the mothers met the child in Elizabeth's womb leapt for joy. She declared "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb... Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled." Mary broke into the Magnificat: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…."

There is a sense in which each of us carries the Lord within us and in which each of us is a precursor of Christ. When we meet one another in either planned or chance visits we can support one another in pain, strengthen one another in sorrow, and guide one another in confusion. We can be God's presence to one another.

Yet, I think, we will only be a visit of Christ, or of his precursor, to one another to the extent that we are present to the divine presence which is within ourselves like a fetus in its mothers womb. When we give attention to that presence we can also give birth to it when we visit one another. Meditation is a way of being present to it. It is a school in which we learn, amongst other things, to know how to visit.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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