On June 1, 2013, Pope Francis offered a reflection on the Visitation. Again, he chose three words to sum up Mary’s attitude as she prepared to visit her cousin Elizabeth:
Pope Francis went on to say that these same words “show us the path before us of what the Lord asks of us in life.”
LISTENING: Our Lady,Pope Francis explained, doesn’t merely hear. Rather, she LISTENS, she pays attention. She LISTENS with a welcoming and an openness to God. She listens to the facts. Pope Francis goes on to say: “She reads the events of her life and observes concrete reality without stopping at the surface of things but going in depth to grasp its meaning.” Is this not how we are to listen, to live?! – especially when discerning God’s Will regarding life decisions! The Pope says:“Listening to God who speaks to us and listening to our everyday reality, paying attention to people and to facts because the Lord is at the door in our lives and He calls in many ways, putting signs along our path and giving us the ability to see them.” Authentic discernment is not somehow detached from ‘real life’! It takes place right smack dab in the middle of reality, of true reality! It engages our heart, our mind, and every bit of who we are!
DECISION: “Mary doesn’t let herself be carried away by events, doesn’t avoid the burden of making decisions. … In life, it is difficult to make decisions. Often we tend to postpone them, to let others decide for us. Often we prefer to be caught up by events, chasing the fashion of the moment. Sometimes we know what we have to do, but we don’t have the courage or it seems too difficult because it means going against the grain. … Mary goes against the current. She listens to God, reflects and tries to understand the reality [of the situation] and decides to entrust herself completely to God.” This sense of decision making – as Pope Francis describes it – engages our gift of freedom. Our freedom to choose the good. This has to be a part of making any decision, and especially so when discerning life decisions.
ACTION: “Mary , despite the difficulties and criticism she received for her decision to leave, doesn’t stop at anything. …Mary isn’t rushed, doesn’t let herself by carried away by the moment. But when it’s clear what God is asking of her, what she must do, she doesn’t linger, doesn’t hold back but goes ‘in haste’.” Discernment does not become a perpetual state for Our Lady. She moves, steadily from listening to decision to action. What a wonderfully fluid movement of grace! Our Holy Father concluded: “Sometimes even we stop with just listening, just reflecting on what we should do, perhaps we are even clear about what decision we should make, but we don’t take the steps to act upon it. Above all we don’t put ourselves in play, don’t move ‘in haste’ toward others to bring them our assistance, our understanding, or our charity.” We don’t want our life to pass away with our ‘pause’ button on. Press play.
Let us ask Our Lady of the Visitation for the grace to authentically discern from the deepest level of our heart, as she did. Let us ask Our Lady to obtain for us the grace to listen, to decide, and to act – all in accord with the loving mercy of our Savior. Then, like her, our own “Magnificant” will be sung! “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoiced in God, my Savior…”