21st December

Today’s gospel passage is that of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to visitation(1)Elizabeth Luke 1:39-45. It was over 100 miles from Galilee in the north of Israel to the hill country of Judea. In those days that was a long distance for a young pregnant woman to travel to visit her relative. Mary wasn’t told by the angel Gabriel to visit Elizabeth but did so because of her eagerness to share her good news –which was, in fact, good news for the whole human race. A theme running throughout Luke’s Gospel is the idea of responding to God’s grace and then embarking upon a journey. For Luke this always requires a leap or step of faith.

Mary’s leap of faith was met, we are told, by a leap of joy from the baby growing in Elizabeth’s womb. The forerunner of the Lord, who would be known for his ascetic lifestyle, his tough-love message of repentance and conversion, and his utter commitment to the truth of the gospel, began his ministry bathed in the joy of Christ.

Joy is a resounding theme of Luke’s Gospel and, of all the blessings and fruits of the Holy Spirit, this is the one we seek to recover and renew as we move closer and closer to the birth of the Saviour.

The Christian life is about joy, joy, joy, deep in our hearts. This joy is the fruit of God’s grace penetrating our hearts so that they are warmed by the gospel and its message of hope and new life. This is the joy that filled the baby in Elizabeth’s womb causing him to leap, and this is the joy that we can know and experience in our own lives.

‘Study always to have joy, for it befits not the servant of God to show before his brothers and sisters the sadness of a troubled face.’ (St Francis of Assisi)