It’s amazing to be gathered with 1.5 million Catholics for Mass. That was my experience at the conclusion of World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration. Among those pilgrims were about 40+ young adults from the Diocese of Gary. Our Northwest Indiana Catholic has more coverage of this event. I write today to reflect a bit more deeply on the theme of this year’s World Youth Day: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39)
This passage is drawn from the account of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth upon learning from the Angel that Elizabeth had conceived a son in her old age:
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:39-45)
When I was ordained your bishop on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in 2020, the papal nuncio quoted Pope Francis commenting on this same passage about the Blessed Mother, saying:
Some years ago, speaking of Mary, Pope Francis said Mary went in haste to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth. She wasted no time, immediately went to serve, and the Virgin of Holiness is now ready to help us when we pray, when we ask for help and protection. …
We pray that you may not only turn to the virgin for help and protection … but also that you would follow her example in recognizing where mercy and compassion are needed and in being ready to serve. … The Holy Father wants a missionary church and His Holiness is counting on you to lead the people of the Diocese of Gary to be both disciples and missionaries. (Transcript of Nuncio Remarks 2-11-2020)
When I reflected on the Visitation before hearing these words at my ordination, I tended to meditate on the actual moment of encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. Since my ordination, reinforced by the World Youth Day theme of this year, I have found myself more drawn to Mary’s immediate response to the need of her cousin. She saw the need and she moved, going into action in haste.
Sometimes we think almost exclusively about Mary “treasuring these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) While it’s true that Mary was a woman of contemplation, we can’t forget that her contemplation led to action as described in the biblical account of the Visitation, the Wedding Feast of Cana, and elsewhere.
How are we to respond as Mary did? Here’s how the Holy See’s World Youth Day materials describe this: “How can we imitate Mary today? Those who strive to be like Mary – people who listen to the Word of God and stand up and set out on the road – are not those who remain seated on the couch or look at things from the balcony or window.”
In my Pastoral Letter, “We Proclaim Jesus as Lord” (dcgary.org/office-bishop/pastoral-letter-missionary-discipleship), the tenth principle of Missionary Discipleship encourages us to “embrace a sense of urgency in our work.” This principle reflects this sense of “going in haste” like Mary:
We should embrace a sense of urgency in our work in the vineyard.
Jesus shares his most compelling desire and statement of purpose, “I have come to set the world on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.” (Luke 12:49-53) Jesus is bursting at the seams to announce the Good News of the Father’s love to all who hear his voice. It seems there is so much to do and so little time!
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few… Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Luke 10:2) There is a foreboding side to this urgency as well. We know that we will be held accountable for our efforts, especially as they pertain to those among us who are spiritually vulnerable. Souls are at stake!
My prayer for all of us is that we will, like Mary, move “in haste” in response to this call of the Lord to share His love. We are called to contemplate the love God has for us – and then to move into action by sharing the Good News in word and deed.
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary