Mary visits Elizabeth - reflection with Canon Pat Browne + audio

The Visitation by Champaigne

The Visitation by Champaigne

Two women meet in today's gospel. Both of them are pregnant.

Mary, only about 14 years old and carrying Jesus. She didn't expect to be pregnant just now. She's not yet married and hasn't been with Joseph in that way.

And Elizabeth, maybe late 40s, early 50's. She had given up any hope of having a child. Now she is carrying John the Baptist. The two women embrace and hug and as they do so, Bump meets Bump.

As they hug and Mary has said hello, Elizabeth bursts out with the words that we know so well: 'Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!' And as the women exchange words the two bumps seem to come alive as well. Even then John the Baptist we are told leaps in his Mother's womb in a greeting for Jesus.

It's an amazing coming together and what underlines it is the sheer joy of the encounter. Neither expected to be pregnant. There is such gratitude here. Such Joy. Such expectancy. Such hope.

My friend has just given birth last week to her sixth child at the age of 47, a little girl. And here too in this family there is such joy and excitement and welcome and warmth. The arrival of the little one is taking them to a new level in family relationships.

The birth of a baby, especially when not expected but wanted, brings gratitude, joy, warmth, and excitement, and promise.

There is not much joy around on the national and international stage is there?

In the church there is revelation after revelation of abuse by clergy. In politics there is the Brexit stalemate and the screaming and shouting in the House of Commons week by week, along with the madness of other world leaders trying to get money to build walls and keep people out instead of spending that money on these people who are in such desperate need.

We certainly cannot look around us at present for such joy.

We must look inside of ourselves, to our hearts.

We are being enveloped by darkness, by doubt, by hopelessness and by selfishness as people close in on themselves and shut others out in mistrust.

If this continues we will destroy ourselves, our world and our human family. People must learn to pull together in mutual respect, openness and trust if we are going to have any sort of life that is worth living.

We need to be saved from ourselves.

Who can do this for us? One of the responses after the consecration at Mass is: 'Save us Saviour of the world for by your cross and resurrection you have set is free.'

The promise that is being celebrated when these two women meet is the coming into the world of a new person who is showing us a better way, the only way, if we want to go forward.

It was the generosity of God in the manger and on the cross and the triumph of that generosity in the resurrection that gives mankind a second chance.

If we take this way it will bring joy back into our lives. When have you ever met a joyful selfish person? They're as miserable as sin with their false laughter hiding an anxiety that everyone is trying to get one over on them.

Jesus is not only showing us the way. He is the way. So it it's not just about doing what he tells you. It is by embracing him as Elizabeth embraced Mary, embracing Jesus your long lost brother who has come to you to take you by the hand, to walk with you and to guide you.

When you take him into your life day by day and walk together with him, then you will find peace and joy and be able to rise above the darkness of this world.

We can keep our arms folded at the coming of Christ and be indifferent or we can open our arms to him in genuine welcome. When we do this we will begin to live with a lighter footstep and be ourselves a LIGHT in an otherwise very dark world.

This is what Christmas is about. It is certainly the sort of Christmas I want - for myself, and for you!


Canon Pat Browne is Parish Priest at Holy Apostles, Pimlico, and Roman Catholic Chaplain to the Houses of Parliament.

Tags: Canon Pat Browne, Advent

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