A Reading From the Gospel of Luke

The Visitation, Jacob and/or Hans Strueb, cir. 1505

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.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Transcription of Homily

I won’t make this long since nobody listens anyway, and I’m sure you got a lot of other things on your minds. You’ve been at St. Anthony’s, some of you four years, some of you 12 years, some of you something in between. I was fortunate enough to be at St. Anthony’s, as well, for seven years, six years, and I left seven years ago and it was really the best chapter in my life. And I’m very grateful to God for the time he allowed me to be at St. Anthony’s. And when I was asked to help out with some of the sacraments here, I was… I also felt very privileged to come back to St. Anthony’s.

I’m offering this Mass for all of you graduates so that you fulfill God’s mission. Each one of us has a mission and it doesn’t always look like somebody else’s. Some of you are going to college, some of you are gonna work. Some of you probably haven’t decided, and that’s all fine. All of those are fine, as long as you do your mission, which is ultimately to make it to heaven.

And in today’s Gospel, this is the Feast of the Visitation, and the scene is that the Archangel Gabriel has just appeared to this little girl and told her she’s going to be the Mother of God. Her whole world is turned upside down. And who’s prepared for that? And as she hears this news: “You are going to bear a child who is God and He will save men from their sins,” and then, as an aside, Gabriel says to the Blessed Mother, “and your cousin Elizabeth, who’s very old is also gonna have a baby.” And that’s where this picks up, this Gospel that we heard today.

Mary and Elizabeth, Dorothy Webster Hawksley, 20th c.

And it said, “and Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste.” She went quickly. She didn’t think about what she had to do. She went with haste. In the Spanish Gospel its apresurada, she was moved. She was on a mission. And this wasn’t something of her own choosing. This wasn’t something that she came up with on her own. It was presented to her. And as soon as she knew the will of God, she did it. And because of that, in her life, she never denied Our Lord anything. She never said no to Him; in little things or big. That virtuous response to accept the mission to be the Mother of God, that wasn’t something that was improvised. She had already a history of generous choices, of saying yes to the will of God when Our Lord would speak in her conscience.

I don’t think any of us can say we’ve got a history like that. And nonetheless, that’s not a problem. Our Lord awaits us in the confessional to forgive us our sins, to help us along the way of that mission, to make it to heaven. And making it to heaven isn’t a very enigmatic or nebulous task, it’s actually quite simple, not easy, but simple. Our Lord doesn’t make things complicated for us. We’re pretty good at complicating things for ourselves and for others, but he doesn’t complicate things for us.

You’ve probably, if you’ve ever seen any graduation speeches, people often say, “Oh, follow your passions,” and things like that. Well, it’s not like people aren’t doing that already. Okay? Our passions are pretty disordered. Okay? And that is not a recipe for happiness. Okay? Our passions are disordered, thanks to original sin, and that’s not real difficult to just follow one’s passions. This ultimately means I’m just doing whatever I feel like. Something far different, though, is doing the will of another, just like the Blessed Mother accepting the will of God and embracing it.

And, each one of us is spoken to in our conscience: Do this it’s good. Don’t do that, it’s bad. None of us escapes that voice. And it’s precisely in heeding that voice, that our future is decided, for good and for ill. So, how can we ensure that we make it to heaven? How can I make sure that I can fulfill my mission and rejoice with the blessing Trinity, with the Blessed Mother, and saints, our ancestors? How do I make it there?

Because just as none of us could live underwater without some help, we couldn’t live in outer space without some help, we also can’t live in heaven without some help. We are not made for it by nature. Our nature doesn’t fit there. And so, God in His grace, through the sacraments, when we were baptized, He infused our soul with the life of grace. It’s like a divine invasion into our soul, and He gave us what we need to make it to heaven, and it can be lost through a sin and regained through Confession. And so, our task is to keep that. So, that’s going to be one of the three necessary means for salvation: sacramental grace. I mean, Sunday Mass, frequent Confession, and when you found the person that Our Lord has chosen for you to marry, to get married in the Church, and then to die with the sacraments. Those are like, supports that from Heaven that Our Lord gives us along the way. But there are two other means.

So, there’s sacramental grace, there is also virtue. Virtue is, ultimately, developing habits of doing what I ought to do. Virtue has an interesting etymology; vir, Latin, vir means man. So to be virtuous is actually being manly, to be strong; to choose what is sometimes very difficult and, nonetheless, I know it’s the right thing and, therefore, I do it. And when we are cultivating our life of grace, with the sacraments, through the sacraments, I get the strength I need to do those difficult things. But that’s still not enough. It’s not just virtue. It’s not just sacraments and it’s not virtue and seconds, there’s something missing. And that’s called prayer.

The Madonna in Prayer, after Guido Reni, 19th c.

Because prayer is how we cultivate our relationship with the One that loves us more than we can imagine. And He never gets tired of hearing from you. He never gets bored by your prayers, even if it’s always the same thing. How he wants to hear from you. And all you have to do is elevate your heart and your mind to Him in praise and thanksgiving, and that moves His Heart so much. Your short prayers throughout the day, your longer periods of prayer, when you have free time, your time at Mass, all of these things means so much to Him and they are forging your heart, preparing your heart, for any eternal conversation with Him. And so, those are the three necessary means for salvation.

Everyone wants to be happy. Everyone wants a happy eternity. And that’s the way. Our Blessed Mother shows us the way also by acting quickly. When she knew the will of God, she did it. She didn’t think about it. There were no calculations. There were no, “Well, yeah, but…” She just did it. When you see this repeated throughout the history of the lives of the saints; they just act. When they know what they’re supposed to do they do it. And when you have all of those three means, sacramental grace, prayer, and virtue running alive in you, it’s so much easier to hear the voice of God, to know what it is that He wants of you, and you will have the strength to do it. And when you do it, it won’t always be easy. But it will definitely bring you peace of soul and you’ll know that you are pleasing Our Lord immensely.

May that be your life and my life and everyone’s here.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.

— Fr. Ermatinger