Category Archives: Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

Standing on the Promises of God

Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. When the child in Elizabeth’s womb hears Mary’s voice he leaps for joy. This child is John the Baptist. This moment of celebration brings joy to Mary and she prophesies:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.   (Luke 1:47-55)

What is remarkable about Mary and Elizabeth also is that they believed in the promise of God, even though great miracles of God were required. Mary, a virgin, had conceived a child and Elizabeth, who was well beyond any child bearing age, had also conceived. Nevertheless, these chosen instruments of God were able to believe God as did Abraham before them.

Are we able to believe in the miraculous today? Mary and Elizabeth understood that the promises God made to them were not just about them. Jesus and John the Baptist are children of the promise which God made to Abraham. Their births extended and expanded this promise down through the ages. Today, we are recipients of the promise.

God has made promises to us as well. His plans for us may not be as dramatic as that of Mary or Elizabeth, but they are important to God’s plan. Are we willing to believe in those promises and hold on to them. There may be obstacles in the way of our receiving God’s promise. The Apostle Paul tells us how to overcome these obstacles with this prescription:

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

In time, the promises of God will come to pass. The blessing is in the believing and perseverance. Too often me take matters in our own hands and thwart God’s plans and purposes for us. Others are depending upon us to make the right choices. In fact, their future blessings depend upon our faithfulness. Let us be willing to see beyond ourselves as the wonders of God’s work unfolds.

God will do great things for us but he requires that we exercise our faith. Are we willing to hear, believe, and stand on the promises of God?

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Homily 1: Formed by God’s Hand

Let us explore two servants today who were called by God. The first one is Samuel, a young b0y serving God in the sanctuary. Reading from 1 Samuel:

Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”    (1 Samuel 3:4-10)

Samuel, the son of Elkanah (of Ephraim) and Hannah, was born in answer to the prayer of his previously childless mother. In gratitude she dedicated him to the service of the chief sanctuary of Shiloh, in the charge of the priest Eli.

The second servant is Nathanael. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”   (John 1:43-49)

Samuel and Nathanael had some things in common. When Samuel was called, scripture tells us:

The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.   (1 Samuel 3:1)

In the case of Nathanael, God has not spoken to Israel through a prophet for over four hundred years. But suddenly, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, as prophesied by Malachi:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?   (Malachi 3:1-2)

Things were about to change. God had chosen both of these two men to serve him in momentous times. Samuel was the last of the Old Testament judges and the prophet who help usher in the Davidic Kingdom which led to birth of Jesus. Nathanael would help establish the Church and prepare it for the Millennial Reign of Christ.

Perhaps there were differences in the way these two men were selected for service. We remember that Samuel’s mother Hannah had dedicated her son to God. She had prayed for a son and promised God that she would offer her son to God in gratitude. Thus, God had a hand in selecting her son.

On the other hand, it would appear that Jesus may have just picked Nathanael. But not so fast. The psalmist wrote:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
    My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.   (Psalm 139:13-16)

Perhaps Nathanael was chosen like Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.   (Jeremiah 1:5)

Jesus told Nathanael that he was Israelite in whom there is no deceit, how did he know that about Nathanael? He had never met him before. But he knew him before he was in his mother’s womb. He formed him by his own hands, Reading from John’s Gospel

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.   (John 1:1-3)

Like Samuel, Nathanael was called for a specific purpose. He was born in a specific time. We have something in common with both of them. We are living in a momentous time. God ordained it. And he is inspiring us to serve him in special ways that only we can do.

Our book has already been written in heaven. He formed us so that we might be ready for this day. Will we listen, like Samuel, to his voice. Will we be as open and transparent as Nathanael? Will we be willing? Many of you have already accepted your call to ministry.

We need to discover our true life and identity in Christ. Jesus said:

Jesus said to him, “I am the wayand the truthand the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:6)

Jesus is our life. We find our true value and calling through him. From John’s Gospel:

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:4-5)

The Apostle Paul adds a very important footnote:

Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.   (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)

Does this sound like a “woman’s right to choose” or a man’s right to require a mother to have an abortion? From John’s Gospel:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   (John 10:9-10)

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