What motivated Mary

Readings: Mic. 5.1-4; Ps. 80; Heb. 10.5-10; Lk. 1.39-45

Mary went out of her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both women were pregnant. Mary was living at Nazareth. Elizabeth was living at En Kerem, a small town similar in population to Emmitsburg; En Kerem is located on the far western outskirts of Jerusalem. Mary no doubt walked on the north-south well worn pathways of the Palestinian Mountain Range; this mountain range and pathway would be similar in height to our Catoctin Mountains, and the pathway would be like our Appalachian Trail. The distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem is 60 miles, and from Jerusalem to En Kerem is another five miles. How long did it take Mary to walk this journey? How long would it take a pregnant woman to walk 65 miles on the Appalachian Trail? Certainly, Mary went out of her way to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

What motivated Mary to perform this act of kindness? Friendship with her blood relative? Wanting to share her good news of pregnancy with her cousin, who had similar good news? May I suggest a deeper motivation: God creates everybody good. This goodness yearns to express itself. The nature of love is that it has to transcend oneself, to go beyond oneself. Each of us becomes his/her best self by manifesting from the inside out this image of God with which each person has been created. In this process, we manifest the goodness of God; we show from within ourselves some part of the personality of God. Let's pause for a moment, what part of God's personality do you most clearly manifest to other people? And what part of the personality of God do you most clearly perceive in each of your family members? It would be good to tell each other how we see God's goodness shining through them. God knows that in most of our families that we probably too often say what we don't like in each other, so we might as well take this occasion to tell each other what we like in each other.

Catholic theology teaches that when we do anything good it is the movement of the Holy Spirit within us which motivates us: our good impulses, ideas, intentions, and actions. The good that we do is attributable to God. So don't get too cocky; don't break your arm while patting yourself on the back! Thank God for the image of God with which he created you. Thank God for your utterly unique personality with which you became born through God and your parent's co-creating activity. Ponder how good God has made you. Appreciate your uniqueness. Wonder what God wants you to do with your life. Reflect on how well you cooperate with God's Spirit in manifesting God's image within you.

Mary went out of her way to visit her sister. Mary cooperated with God's Spirit within herself. Regarding yourself, what might God's Spirit be urging you to do, to go out of your way to do good for someone else? The emphasis here is not on what performing some good, which is consequential, but on recognizing God's Spirit which urges you to do good. Think how God already has blessed you; God's presence and power already within you motivates you to be a blessing for someone else.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley