Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary



Luke 1:39-56; Romans 12:9-16; Isaiah 11:1-5

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Often the blind have better vision than those who can see. Often the deaf comprehend more than those who hear. For, the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. And, His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts. Indeed, we live in a time when only that which we perceive is believed to exist. What supreme arrogance, even foolishness, to think that this enormous and, apparently, expanding universe must operate according to the limitations of our five senses and our reasoning. For, what are they in comparison to the impenetrable depths of our galaxy, let alone what lies beyond? And, what are they in comparison to that of which they are made of, let alone the one who made them, upon who’s speaking the foundations of the universe were made and all things came to be and are yet sustained?

When God speaks His powerful, creative and life-giving Word, stars and planets find their course, mountains and oceans take their place, plants and trees begin to grow and to bear fruit, hearts and lungs begin to circulate life-giving blood and air, eyes and ears begin to see and to hear His handiwork, and minds begin to know their Creator through His creation, even through their very own selves, and they are attuned to His voice and to His Word, even if they try not to hear. For, the Word of God has gone out into the world and it will not return to Him void, but it will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.

And so, when God’s life-giving and creative Word was spoken by an angelic messenger into the ear of a young virgin maiden, chosen by God by His unique grace, mercy, and wisdom alone, that Word accomplished what it said, and Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Son of God, the same way that she, and Abram, and all the faithful, had conceived their faith long ago – by hearing. Though she did not understand the how and the why, Mary believed the Word of the Lord and she said “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Henceforth, all would call her blessed because she “believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And, to this day, Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, is rightly remembered and venerated, not because of her unique holiness or her important works, but because of the unique grace and mercy the Lord showered upon her and because of the unique faith He created in her, faith that simply received, clung to, and even conceived the Lord’s life-giving and creative Word. To this day, Mary remains for us a premiere example of the childlike faith Jesus calls us all of us to, faith which He says enters into the kingdom of God.

The Church calls Mary Theotokos, which means, the “Mother of God”, for the child she conceived, carried, and bore was not only a man, though He was truly a man, but He was the Son of God – perfect God and perfect Man. Her womb had become the ark and temple of God, yet greater, for abiding therein was much more than the glory of God, but the glory of God as a man, fully alive. God had visited His people to redeem them. This, Mary’s aunt Elizabeth, herself six months pregnant with a son who would be called John the Baptist, acknowledged and confessed by the Holy Spirit upon Mary’s greeting saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” She couldn’t help herself. The Word of God had located Himself in the womb of Mary, and in His presence, and at His command, faith is created, life is given, the sea roars, the rivers clap their hands, and the hills sing for joy together before the LORD.

Dear Christians, receive the clear and constant teaching of the Holy Scriptures that life and faith come from God’s life-giving, creative Word. We are the passive recipients of His gifts even as our eyes receive light, our noses receive aromas, our hands receive sensations, our tongues receive tastes, and our ears receive sounds. So are we the recipients of God’s gift of faith and knowledge of Him, even as we are the recipients of His gracious gift of life itself. The Word of the Lord alone has the power to open deaf ears to hear and blind eyes to see, to release the mute tongue to speak and to sing praises, to release from the bondage of sin and guilt, and to raise the dead to new and eternal life. When the LORD speaks, people listen – even the mountains, the oceans, and the stars listen – unless you willfully stop your ears. Yet, even then, you cannot silence the Law of God that is written upon your heart and neither can you refrain from observing God’s handiwork in creation and His sustaining providence for all, even those who reject Him.

John the Baptist could not help but leap for joy in his mother’s womb, for the Word of God, even God Himself, had entered His presence. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and confessed God’s presence in Mary, and she confessed the blessedness Mary had received in humble faith. And Mary confessed that she was the humble recipient of God’s gracious visitation, a servant and a magnifying glass for the glory of the LORD. She confessed the external and objective workings of God to bring righteousness and justice to His sin-wrecked people and creation as He had continually promised to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

As Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, there is blessedness in being poor in spirit, meek, and humble. There is blessedness in hunger and in thirst for righteousness. There is blessedness in showing mercy and in making peace, even in the face of persecution. These qualities are means of blessing, not because they are meritorious works, but because they restore a right relationship between yourself and the Lord. He is your God, who desires above all else that you receive His good gifts. And, the less that you have of the qualities and distractions that the world and the flesh value, the more your God and Lord can, and will, shower upon you His grace, mercy, and love.

What we celebrate on this The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not Mary’s greatness or holiness, or even her strong and humble faith which, nevertheless, is a great example for us, but what we celebrate is the LORD’s gracious visitation of His people to redeem them from their sins and to restore us to communion and life with Him. This Mary believed and received in humble faith. This Elizabeth acknowledged and confessed upon Mary’s greeting. And this caused John the Baptist to leap for joy and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that he might proclaim the coming of the one whose sandals he was not worthy to untie – the shoot from the stump of Jesse, upon whom the Spirit of the LORD rests and remains – the Messiah, our Lord, our Savior, and our Redeemer Jesus Christ.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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