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The Gift of Presence - Weekday Homily Video

The Gift of Presence - Weekday Homily Video

Love thy Neighbor

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Assuming that after the Annunciation took place on March 25, Mary left Nazareth and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth because her presence and much more, the presence of Jesus in her womb, was to be the source of very great graces to Saint John, His Forerunner. Elizabeth was six months pregnant and needed Mary’s attention, help, service and care since she was already in old age. Mary’s mind was still attuned to helping others and putting into practice, even if it was not yet written, the words of Saint Paul: “Your move must be sincere, Anticipate each other in showing respect, look on the needs of the saints as your own; be generous in offering hospitality.”



This is a fairly late feast, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969, in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord and precede the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.

One of the invocations in Mary’s litany is the “Ark of the Covenant.” Like the Ark of the Covenant of old, Mary brings God’s presence into the lives of other people. As David danced before the Ark, Saint John the Baptist leaps for joy inside Elizabeth's womb.


The Gift of Presence


Throughout the Bible, God comes to His people when His people are in need or in a difficult situation. God came to visit Adam when he had sinned. God sent Moses to His people when they were under slavery in Egypt. God sent prophets to His people when they strayed and sinned against Him. God sent His only Son to save His people from their sins. In today’s feast of the Visitation, we hear of God sending Mary to visit Elizabeth to support her in her time of need. We are certainly in a time of need. But we must realize that what we need is God, and He will come to us.


I always wondered, what gift did Mary bring to Elizabeth? We are not told that she brought foodstuff, although she might as well have brought some. We are told she brought just one thing: herself. She gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence. And, dear friends, this is the best and the hardest gift of all. It is easy to send flowers; it is easy to send a parcel, but to give the gift of ourselves, to make the time to be with somebody, that is the gift that many people long for but do not receive.


Give What They Need


Another point we can make out of Mary’s gift to Elizabeth is that one should give not according to one’s convenience but according to the needs of the receiver. It was not convenient for Mary to travel the lonely, dangerous road from Galilee to the hills of Judea. It was certainly for her an uphill task. But Elizabeth needed a helping hand. She was six months pregnant and would no longer be able to go and draw water from the village well, to look after the crops in her garden, and the animals in her farm, she would no longer be able to go to the market to do her shopping. So, Mary, goes with haste and stayed with her for about three months, until she gave birth. Mary gave Elizabeth what she needed when she needed it most. That is the perfect gift.


Let us gift someone with our presence today. Visit someone whom you have not visited for a long time this weekend. Those of you who can visit the Peyton Centre, go visit our art gallery once again today and spend some time before the painting on the Visitation by Jen Norton, one of my favorites. It’s a beautiful painting with lots of hidden meaning. Discover some today.

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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.

Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.