May 31: Visitation (Zeph 3:14-18; Lk 1:39-56)




            In our first reading, the Prophet Zephaniah assures us that God himself will visit his people. God’s visitation will punish the bad and bless the good. No matter how unfaithful and rebellious humankind has been, God will establish justice by creating a new people who will praise him with clean lips. They will come to him from among all the nations. They will be humble and poor, and will trust in God. The Lord himself will be in their midst as their Saviour. He will recreate them with his love.


            Zephaniah’s prophecy was fulfilled when Mary visited Elizabeth.


            In the gospel, Mary visits Elizabeth, and in this same action God in Jesus visits his people. Mary and Elizabeth share their happiness, and John the Baptist leaps for joy. The creation of the new people, the new Israel, the poor ones of God, has begun. God himself is in the midst of his people.


            This is Good News: for the meek and lowly, for the poor and humble of heart, for those who suffer, and for those who hunger and thirst for justice, also for prisoners and for those without hope. It is Good News because it is light for their path, security for their vulnerability, reassurance for their fears, certainty for their doubts.


            The Good News is Jesus himself who comes to take away our sins and to give us, not only a better life, but a new and eternal life. His word is life for all, but in a special way for us Franciscans, because "the rule and life of the (Franciscans) is this, to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ...." This Word of Life comes to us in its entirety only through the Church, which is itself formed by that same Word.


            This feast of the Visitation is dear to our Franciscan tradition, because it is the feast of the first evangelizer, the first bearer of the Good News. Under Mary’s patronage and after her example, we renew our missionary spirit to carry the joy and hope of the Gospel to poor people, whether they are materially poor or spiritually deprived. There is no one as poor as the person who lacks faith and hope and a sense of justice.


            Today, we take the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to God who has visited us. Let us do so in the spirit of detachment, poverty and humility which characterized St Francis and all who have followed him faithfully.


            With Francis, we look toward Mary to bring us Jesus, the cause of our joy and the reason for our hope. Let us pray today that, like Francis, we will remain always faithful and subject to the Church, as a humble people who receive the Good News with joy.