The Deacon's Bench

Christianity is a religion that grew on its feet. From Jesus, who walked from town to town…to the apostles, who journeyed into the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire…to missionaries who ventured into uncharted, often dangerous territory to spread the gospel…Christianity has been a movement spread by movement.

Today we celebrate the very first incidence of that: The Visitation. To my mind, this is probably the first great act of Christian evangelization — the first time the good news was proclaimed from one person to another. And, like so many other missionaries, Mary did it at great personal risk.

Here a teenage girl, pregnant, without a husband, with no way of supporting herself, leaves the comfort of her home town to go and bring The Word – literally – to someone else. According to the laws of her own day, as a pregnant unwed woman, she could be stoned to death. But she goes anyway, out of great charity and great joy.

And that joy is expressed in her beautiful prayer, The Magnificat. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, as more lay people do today, know that prayer well. It’s prayed every evening, in celebration of what God has done for us – just as Mary did, the first time it was spoken.

On this beautiful feast, which closes the month named for and dedicated to our Lady, it is worth asking ourselves: how are we keeping the spirit of The Visitation alive? Are we willing to leave our comfort zones to proclaim the good news? How are we, like Mary, striving to bring Jesus to others?

We hear a lot today about the New Evangelization. But on the Feast of The Visitation we are reminded of the FIRST evangelization – an act that grew out of charity, generosity, and joy. I think those are the elements of any evangelization.

If we carry them with us when we walk out those doors today, we will truly – like Mary – be bringing The Word to the world.

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