Just two days after we’ve celebrated the birth of Jesus, we have Mary and Joseph losing him today. Of course this event in the Temple of Jerusalem–found only in Luke–happens when Jesus is already twelve years old. Be that as it may, the account gives us some kind of rude awakening, similar to yesterday, when we commemorated the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the very day after Christmas.
Today we have the account of the so-called Visitation–probably better known to us as the Second Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.
Most of us are familiar with the story: Upon learning of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy from the angel Gabriel, Mary makes a trip to Judah not only to confirm the angel’s news, but also to help the elderly Elizabeth out in what we can only imagine would be a difficult pregnancy.
It’s tempting to regard the Visitation as a relatively unimportant event, a minor Joyful Mystery squeezed between the two earthshaking mysteries of the Annunciation and the Nativity. But today, the Church in her wisdom invites us not to rush to Bethelehem yet, but to make this necessary detour to Judah with Mary. There must be a grace waiting for us here.
One thing that immediately struck me reading today’s Gospel is how different kinds of people approach John the Baptist and ask him the same question. The crowds, having heard his call for repentance, ask John, “What should we do?” The tax collectors and the soldiers are also so moved by John’s preaching that they too ask the same question: “What is it that we should do?”
Today John the Baptist uncharacteristically takes center stage. As we hear from today’s Gospel, he is but “a voice crying out in the desert,” whose life work is to “prepare the way of the Lord.” At the proper time later on, when Jesus begins his Public Ministry, the Baptist will opt to decrease as his cousin increases, fading disceetly to the periphery. But today, he steps into the limelight and quotes the bold promise that God has made through the prophet Isaiah: