Dec 21, 2020

I’ve noticed that North Americans use the term “visit” in a very broad sense. Whereas in NZ we might plan to visit someone (face to face), Americans will also speak of “visiting” with a friend on the phone.

It took me a while to work out what was unique about a USA “visit.” It wasn’t simply that it wasn’t necessarily face to face. It seemed to have more to do with the fact that there was usually no agenda and it was pretty informal. An invitation to “visit with” someone seems to be much closer to wanting to spend time or to even waste time together”

Most often our days are filled with business catch-ups, or networking over a quick coffee with the aim of building our earthly kingdoms. While these meetings might be useful, they rarely deal with the real stuff of life and friendship. It’s wasting time together that provides real friendship and food for the soul.

This is the kind of visiting that comes to mind when I think of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth in today’s gospel passage. She didn’t just pop in for a quick catch-up but as the scripture makes a point of telling us she stayed for three months.

I imagine the two of them having a great time, especially since Zechariah was unable to speak after his encounter with the angel!

When we visit with someone for an hour or two we don’t usually get to the stage of wasting time together. We know the catch-up will be brief so we don’t waste time.

But when we spend longer together simply for the sake of being together the visit doesn’t have to be all talk and we can relax. There can be silence with time to sit together perhaps each with a book, talking every now and then, then a break for a walk or food then more chat and more silence. This is a real visit and in this relaxed restful environment friendship blossoms. The ultimate is when the visit includes a night or two or three.

The “Visitation” of Mary to Elizabeth was the sign that these two women were good friends and together they had found safe company away from the chatter of those who could not see the presence of God in their unexpected pregnancies.

The painting above is the work of African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner. I saw an exhibition of his work a few years ago and was moved by many of his depictions of religious scenes including this one  named “Visitation.” I love the way Tanner depicts the reaction of Elizabeth when Mary turns up at her door.

An Invitation

  • Take time to visit with a friend in the next few hours, maybe in person, or at least a phone chat for no reason apart from to savour the friendship and waste time together.
  • Take time today to visit with Jesus, setting aside 10 or 20 minutes in the midst of your pre-Christmas busyness to know his presence with you and his love for you.

O Antiphon: 21 December

“ O Rising Sun,
you are the splendour of eternal light
and the sun of justice.
O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.”


  1. ‘Food for thought’ indeed, thank you Fr John

  2. Just love your reflections. Thank you

  3. I was touched by an email this morning from a woman you teaches a ukelele group I joined, offering for anyone alone or just needing company on Christmas day to join her anf her family at her house.
    How generous of heart and kindness was that offer of visiting.
    I was so touchrd

  4. Thank you once again Fr John. Let us all pray that in this last week people will begin to really understand what the season of Christmas is all about!

  5. I revisited the reflection on the Angelus and it struck me that Mary was full of grace. How did this happen? Was it innate to her personality and character? Did all who knew her know that she was full of grace? When she started to show her pregnancy friends and family would have been surprised, knowing her grace filled life. I wonder how I can be more full of grace in this busy 21st century life?

  6. Good morning Fr John. It’s that visiting with the Lord daily –
    Doing the dishes, making the bed, watering the garden, thinking and talking with him as I go about my business.
    Your daily reflections put me and those I love in constant touch.
    I share them daily with those in NZ and the USA.
    This is my daily visitation. I could send them your website, but my daily sharing is more intimate.
    Thank you. SKJ

  7. It’s making time to sit and read these wonderful reflections that is “visiting” for me.

    Thank you John!

  8. My day starts with mass, and Each night my mind is
    Unlittered,with daily life,
    And sleeps peacefully
    As it is filled with your
    Thankyou Fr John

  9. LOL – funny but so true….I imagine the two of them having a great time, especially since Zechariah was unable to speak after his encounter with the angel!

  10. I have just spent the evening catching up with a friend – I could not stop thinking how lucky I was to be able to do this and how wonderful God is to have provided this opportunity to me.

    Thank you John for making me aware of how God is always part of my life.

  11. Imagine the conversations these two women had over those 3 months. What wonderful wisdom, strength and trust they must have shared as well as the overwhelming Mystery of what was to happen next.


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