The Visitation and Messianic Joy- Reflection for Mass of Monday, May 31, 2010- Feast of the Visitation of Mary

31 May

Monday, May 31, 2010
Feast of the Visitation of Mary
Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18a or Romans 12:9-16; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6 (Responsorial Canticle); Luke 1:39-56

The Passionist Carroll Stuhlmueller characterizes the Gospel of Luke, based on its vocabulary and literary style, as “the ‘Gospel of Messianic Joy’” in his chapter on Luke in the Jerome Biblical Commentary.[1] Stuhlmueller’s description of Luke’s Gospel is fitting, and we might understand why particularly in today’s reading, the story of the Visitation.

Luke uses several Greek synonyms for joy, exultation, or gladness, especially in his infancy narrative, that are rare in the other Gospels. One of these words, αγαλλιάσει (agallia’sei), appears only twice in Luke,[2] in today’s Gospel reading to describe John the Baptist, who leaps for joy at Mary’s greeting,[3] and in the angel’s announcement to Zechariah of his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy: “You will have joy and gladness.”[4] This word and its cognates are used only once in the Synoptic Gospels outside of Luke, in Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”[5]

Thus, the theme of joy surrounding the coming of the Messiah is repeated in Luke more than in any other Gospel. However, as Stuhlmueller emphasizes, Luke’s account is not one of joy without emotional or theological depth. Stuhlmueller writes of Luke’s tendency to precede or to follow a joyful passage with one that allows the hearer “to ponder the wonder of what has taken place.”[6] The people featured in Luke’s infancy narrative themselves take time to ponder and to be awed by the Incarnation. Luke, for example, uses that very verb twice to describe Mary’s contemplation of the mystery of God made man: “And Mary pondered all these things… in her heart.”[7]

Mary’s example of discipleship to us is to ponder the joy of our journey with Christ. Sometimes, even amid that joy, Mary ponders that which troubles her. So must we ponder and discern the will of God that brings us tremendous joy but can also be troubling to us.

Elizabeth, too, is one who ponders the mystery of the Incarnation, coupled with the miracle of her own pregnancy. Her question in today’s Gospel reading of the Visitation never ceases to give me pause: “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”[8]

Why, we ask, should God have come to us at all? Jesus was not obligated to take our human form, but He did so out of love for us. He came to dwell in the womb of a human mother, to be born, to live and to minister among us, and to die and to rise to complete the long-anticipated act of salvation. We are now given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s mystery becomes our vocation.

We carry the Spirit of the Lord within us as Mary once carried Jesus within her. When that Spirit is disseminated among us, when we act in the name of the Lord whom we receive in the Eucharist, we make the Visitation a perpetual and actual reality. Let us then live the Visitation by recognizing Christ in those around us, and in our prayer and acts of charity may we ponder the reality of Christ among us and within us, and may we be to this world a people of great joy.


[1] Carroll Stuhlmueller, “The Gospel According to Luke,” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 2:117.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Luke 1:44

[4] Luke 1:14

[5] Matthew 5:12. The Gospel of John uses cognates of αγαλλιάσει twice, in 5:35 and 8:56. This word and its derivatives appear eleven times in the New Testament. Outside the Gospels, it appears twice in the Acts of the Apostles (2:26 and 16:34), three times in the first letter of Peter (1:6, 1:8, and 4:13), and once in Revelation (19:7). See Heartlight’s Search God’s Word, “The New Testament Greek Lexicon.” lex/grk/view.cgi?number=21. Accessed 29 May, 2010.

[6] Stuhlmueller, “The Gospel According to Luke,” 2:117.

[7] Luke 2:19. See also Luke 1:29.

[8] Luke 1:43


5 Responses to “The Visitation and Messianic Joy- Reflection for Mass of Monday, May 31, 2010- Feast of the Visitation of Mary”

  1. Fr. Jesudoss May 31, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Thank you!
    Today I am celebrating my silver jubilee of my first profession and meditating on the gospel and your interpretaion I believe that it is a joyful day for me. I also begin to wonder and question myself why did God chose me …. I follow Mary in her passion to serve others in need ….
    May God bless you

    • canadiancatholicblog May 31, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

      Dear Fr. Jesudoss,

      Thank you for responding to my reflection on the Visitation. I wish you a happy anniversary of profession. To which religious community do you belong, if you don’t mind me asking?

      I will celebrate my first anniversary of profession as a Basilian (Congregation of St. Basil, of the Latin Rite) next August 15. It’s quite humbling as well as heartening to me that you were inspired by my work here on this blog. I have a long way to go to my silver anniversary of profession, of course, but I, like you I hope and I pray, am inspired by the joy of Mary and Elizabeth, and of John the Baptist and Jesus at the Visitation. May we be sustained by that joy until we are welcomed into the everlasting joy of heaven.

      God Bless,

  2. Al Maloney May 31, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    I’d like to know more about joy, particularly its definition as distinct from happiness. Have you any thoughts?

    • canadiancatholicblog May 31, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

      Dear Al,

      As I understand, happiness and joy are distinct in that one may be joyful without always being happy. Many saints (I point to the ‘three Teresas’ in particular, Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila, and Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta; see my most recent post on the Gospel of Luke, “He Set His Face”) are examples of joy absent happiness for much of their lives.

      Happiness is not to be trivialized; many people lead generally happy lives (myself included). Nothing is wrong with this; no one will go to hell because they did not experience enough sorrow in his or her earthly life. Joy, though, is a grace that comes from the Holy Spirit to bear one’s sufferings or to live in happiness and prosperity, but always with one’s whole self oriented toward and focused on God. This is the example of joyful anticipation of the coming of the Messiah that is shown to us in the Visitation between Mary and Elizabeth.

      Let us be people of joy, in happiness and in times of sorrow and crisis.

      God Bless and thanks again for writing,

  3. Fr. Jesudoss June 2, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    Dear Warren
    I appreciate you as an online minister. I belong to the Salesian congregation, working for the media education for the poor children in India-Tamil Nadu. I just completed my doctoral studies in social communication in our Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. I have some concrete plan for my children and looking for collaborators and resource persons in this field. Right now I am getting ready to come to LA for this purpose as well as for an internship course in any of the catholic media centers. Hope to meet you in person some time. I will be glad to celebrate a Mass with you thanking God for all the gifts He has showered on both of us during these years of religious life.
    I also have got a story to narrate to you I am sure you will like it an will be inspired by that. It is about a saintly lady form Canada. May be later I will share this with you.
    My dear friend I am so happy to have you as my friend and let us help each other in our vocation and pray for each other that God may be with us in all that we do for the poor youth.
    God bless

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