The last Sunday of the month was usually the best of the days during my middle and high school days in minor seminary boarding school. It used to be the visiting day when family and friends were allowed to come to see us for the whole of the day until 6 pm.
Everyone would dress up in their immaculate white shirts and pants and wait patiently to be invited to see their visitors. Of course, it was a huge disappointment if you had nobody visiting. But, on the other hand, if you had a visitor, you would be sure of receiving lots of things in addition to the joy of seeing family and friends again after a whole month or even more.
The Gospel of Luke (1:39-45) tells us the story of the unexpected but powerful visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Notice that the visit followed a prior visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, who brought the good news about God’s choice of her to become the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High God.
The Spirit-filled Visit
The heavenly visit of the angel Gabriel activated the earthly visit of Mary to Elizabeth. We could recall that the angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was in her sixth month with a child towards the end of the visit. Consequently, Mary immediately set out to see Elizabeth share the joyful news.
It may be easier to say that Mary set out on her own to visit Elizabeth than to understand the prompting behind Mary’s long foot journey (about 90 miles) from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea (Luke 1::39).
Recall that when the angel told Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, her initial reaction was, “how can this happen since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). The angel responds and says to her, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).
Put together, and we understand that the Holy Spirit was responsible for Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. When Mary said yes to God’s proposal, the Holy Spirit came down on her and never left her. So, when Elizabeth heard the voice of Mary, the child in her womb (John) leaped for joy.
Filled with the same Holy Spirit, Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice, saying: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”. There was no way Elizabeth could have known about Mary’s encounter except through the Holy Spirit.
The Visit of Peace
Every visitor comes with something significant. We often expect good things from our visitors during our minor seminary days, and we got them. However, there are some instances when the visitors come with bad news of sickness or death in the family, leaving the visited seminarian heartbroken and sad.
A visit can be positively or negatively charged. In the case of the visit of Mary to Elizabeth, we see the fruit of peace, which is the message of this Fourth Sunday of Advent following the theme of joy in the Third Sunday of Advent.
The oracle of the Prophet Micha (5:1-4a) tells us about the Great One who would arise from Bethlehem but would rule Israel as a steadfast shepherd by the strength of the Lord. The oracle also says that his greatness shall reach the ends of the and he shall be peace! Consider the prophecy of Isaiah about the birth of the messiah refers to him as the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6b)
The night of the birth of Jesus will feature the theme of peace again from the nativity angels who would sing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to people of goodwill” (Luke 2:14).
Moving Forward: Seek Peace
Peace is not just the absence of war; it is a spiritual facility that indicates first and foremost the reassuring presence of God that brings inner and expressive tranquillity. The Priestly blessings of Aaron, among other things, says: “may the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace” (Numbers 26:6).
Real peace comes from God and not from people or material possessions. You could recall that our Lord Jesus Christ speaking to his disciples towards the end of his earthly mission, said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Furthermore, his first words to the disciples in the upper room after his resurrection was, “peace be with you” (John 91:18; 21)
Most people go after so many things in life for various reasons, but the greatest thing you need to seek in life is peace, and to seek peace is to find God. Remember that peace is first and foremost the reassuring presence of God. The Letter to the Hebrews (12:14) says: “make effort to live in peace with everyone.”
Many odd things in our world today could congregate to frustrate our peace if we allow them. Like the virtue of joy, peace comes from within and is not dependent on the absence of tribulations. It is possible to have peace even in the face of troubles.
Be the peacemaker and dispenser this season and always. In life, what you give is what you get. Remember that the peacemakers are the real children of God (Matt. 5:9). God is visiting us with peace through Jesus Christ His Son, May that peace of God reign in our hearts until the coming visitation of the Lord!