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Sunday:       Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Date:         May 31, 2017.
Year:         A
The readings: [Zeph. 3:14-18 OR Rom. 12:9-16; Lk. 1:39-56]
The message:  Jesus and His Mother visit the Church.
Prepared by:  Catholic Doors Ministry
Total words:  894

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** The readings follow the sermon.

The narration of the Gospel Reading [Lk. 1:39-56] that we have just heard reminds us of the Feast that is being celebrated today, the "Visitation of Mary." Immediately after the archangel Gabriel had appeared to the Mother of God to announce that she would give birth to the Divine Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary left to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Christ's forerunner.

As Elizabeth reported, the unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped with joy in his mother's womb when he found himself in the presence of Our Lady. Three months later, Mary returned to Nazareth, most likely accompanied by St. Joseph. By this time, Joseph must have had peace of mind regarding the pregnancy of Mary because of his vision of the angel in a dream. [Mt. 1:19-25]

Now one would think that traditionally, this feast has been celebrated since the early days of the Church. But this is not the case. While there are records to show that the feast was adopted by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263 upon the advice of St. Bonaventure, this feast was not extended to the entire Church until 1389.

On November 9, 1389, it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.

This Schism was known as the "Western Schism." The New Catholic Dictionary, Van Rees Press, NY, Copyright 1929, report the "Western Schism as follows:

"The cause of the so-called Western Schism was the temporary residence of the popes at Avignon, France, which began in 1309 under Clement V. This exile from the Eternal City met with opposition, especially in Italy where the people clamoured for the return of the sovereign pontiff. Finally in 1376 Gregory XI reestablished his see in Rome, and on his death, 1378, the future residence of the vicars of Christ was the main issue in the subsequent conclave. The cardinals meeting in the Holy City duly elected Urban VI, an Italian. General dissatisfaction, especially on the part of the French members of the Sacred College, and disagreement concerning the validity of the choice led to a second conclave at Fondi (20 Sept.) and the election of another pope, a Frenchman, as Clement VII, who immediately took up his residence in Avignon. As both claimed to be legitimate successors, the Western Church quickly divided into two camps, each supporting one or the other."

"There was really no schism, for the majority of the people desired unity under one head and intended no revolt against papal authority. Everywhere the faithful faced the anxious problem: where is the true pope? Even saints and theologians were divided on the question. Unfortunately, led by politics and human desires, the papal claimants launched excommunications against each other, and deposed secular rulers who in turn forbade their subjects to submit to them. This misunderstanding lasted forty years (1378- 1417). An attempt to mend the breach at the Council of Pisa (1409) produced a third claimant and the schism was not terminated until the Council of Constance (1414-18), which deposed the Pisan, John XXIII, received the abdication of the Roman, Gregory XII, dismissed the Avignon Benedict XIII, and finally elected an undisputed pope, Martin V (11 Nov., 1417)."

The list of Roman, Avignon, and Pisan popes went as follows:

At Rome:
(1) Urban VI (1378-89),
(2) Boniface IX (1389-1404),
(3) Innocent VII (1404-06),
(4) Gregory XII (1406-15).

At Avignon:
(1) Clement VII (1378-94),
(2) Benedict XIII (1394-1417).

At Pisa:
(1) Alexander V (1409-10),
(2) John XXIII (1410-15).

Imagine the confusion that the people must have had to tolerate in those days when communication was limited to travelling by foot or by horse. The faithful would hear of one pope here and another one there. Consequently, the Lord Jesus and His Mother visited the Catholic Church and resolved the situation to secure that apostolic succession would continue as we enjoy it today.

In today's Gospel Reading, we find the origin of the "Magnificat" which is also known as the "Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary." It begins with "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" (My soul doth magnify the Lord). As one of the three "evangelical canticles," it is included in the Roman Breviary for Vespers daily throughout the year and prior to Vatican II, it was often sung on solemn occasions. The Magnificat was recited by the Blessed Virgin on her visit to Elizabeth after the Angel Gabriel had announced to her that she was to become the mother of Christ. [Lk. 1] In style, it resembles the Canticle of Anna [1 Kgs. 2:1-10].

"The Magnificat is the crown of the Old Testament singing, the last canticle of the Old and the first of the New Testament. It was uttered (or, not improbably, chanted) by the Blessed Virgin, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth under the circumstances narrated by St. Luke in the first chapter of his Gospel. It is an ecstasy of praise for the inestimable favour bestowed by God on the Virgin, for the mercies shown to Israel, and for the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and to the patriarchs." [The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, Copyright (C) 1910 by Robert Appleton Company]

As we proceed with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus and His Mother to continue to visit the Catholic Church so that it may bloom as an aromatic flower for the glory of God.

* * * * * * * * * *

The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

* * * * * * * * * *

First Reading...

"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it."[Zeph. 3:14-18]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"Beloved; Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are."[Rom. 12:9-16]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.' And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations shall call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

The Lord's mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

The Lord has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

And Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home."[Lk. 1:39-56]

* * * * * * * * * *

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