This weekend’s readings are all about God’s will. They are special readings for us at Visitation because the Gospel is that of the Visitation. Mary has already submitted her will to the will of God in the Annunciation, ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’. And now we have the aftermath of Mary’s humility and acceptance of the will of God for her but also for all of us - unbridled joy. It is the unbridled joy that drives Mary to share that joy with her cousin Elizabeth who herself is pregnant with John the Baptist in her older age.
It seems contradictory to our rational minds in all honesty. Most of the time, we get upset when we don’t get our way. We think that getting what we want will bring us happiness. Yet, everything in the Bible points us not in the opposite direction, but in the direction of God. God’s Will is not ALWAYS the opposite of our will. That would be a pretty tough pill to swallow for us. But His will is so much grander than ours in scope, it is a life-long battle for us to try to match our wills to His. It does require a surrendering of the mindset that the fulfilling of our will brings us happiness and trusting that whatever God wants for us will bring us joy we can’t even comprehend.
But here is the most important part, and the hardest to surrender to - suffering is not the enemy. In the second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews echoes Jesus’ words in His ministry that the Father did not want sacrifices and offerings of the Jewish people - He desires now one sacrifice - that of His Son. Even Mary, during the Annunciation, is told a sword is going to pierce your heart. She is promised grace and that the Lord will be with her. But she is also promised SUFFERING. Jesus, certainly, as the lamb offered for our sins, was promised suffering as well.
Suffering, for us, is not something to try to avoid at all costs, which we generally do. At the very center of our faith is a cross. When you hear people say, “embrace your cross” or “offer it up”, what that means is to embrace the suffering. It cleanses us of our will and allows us through grace to surrender our will. The more we try to avoid suffering, the stronger our will grows and the less likely we will be to even see the will of God in our lives.
This is one of, if not the most difficult truths about our faith to embrace. It is only through the cross that we are able to taste the sweet joys of the Resurrection. Mary and Elizabeth understood that in their lives. They were given the grace very early on at the Visitation to see God’s will and the suffering they would have to endure. John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s miracle child, was beheaded after a life of preaching repentance and belief in the one to come. Mary had to watch her Child be abandoned and crucified. Yet, by embracing their suffering with the grace of God and abandoning their will to His, they were able to see the Resurrection and live in the great story of our salvation.
We, too, are able to live in the history of salvation if we strive to love the little and big sufferings in our lives and pray for the grace to attach all of our sufferings to the cross and pray for the joy that comes from the Resurrection. As Saint Pope John Paul II said - “Be not afraid”. Do not be afraid to surrender your will. Do not be afraid of embracing your cross. Do not be afraid of the great, unknown depth of joy God promises to us.
May the Lord give you His peace,