Possible Preaching Themes
Possible Scientific Resources
  • Gospel: Mary, Woman on the Move: How the Visitation connects with Mary’s Assumption
  • Gospel: The Science of sound and the unborn John the Baptist 

Homily Outline Combining Resources

Homily Outline: Mary as the First Herald of Christ (combining both themes)

  • Introduction: The Power of a Journey
  • From the first words of this Gospel — “Mary set out” — we encounter a woman on a journey, going places. 
  • What is the significance of Mary traveling? Why didn’t she just stay home after the Annunciation? 
  • Researchers have long endorsed the power of travel, finding that it fuels creativity, empathy and might even encourage new ways of thinking. Increasingly, they are finding it affects the brain in powerful and life-changing ways.  https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/
  • “Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit… New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/
  • Not only that: traveling to different places — leaving our comfort zone, even for a brief time or at a short distance — produces “an increase in trust” and “can increase generalized faith in humanity.”
  • Mary as a traveler
  • Mary, at a pivot point in history, is a traveler who will help introduce humanity to a new way of living, thinking, believing.  A journey at this moment underscores something about the power of travel — the idea of leaving the familiar, discovering the unexpected.  
  • Mary, at a pivot point in history, is a traveler who will help introduce humanity to a new way of living, thinking, believing.  A journey at this moment underscores something about the power of travel — the idea of leaving the familiar, discovering the unexpected.   
    • Central to this encounter is something beautiful and dramatic, an unborn child’s response to the sound of a voice. But is there more to it? What does this mean?
  • How the Unborn Respond to Sound  
  • Was Elizabeth (or the evangelist, Luke) merely being dramatic when she said, “at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy….”? Is that even possible?
    • Actually, it is. We should remember that tradition tells us that the author of this Gospel was a physician. These kinds of details help him to tell his story. 
    • Research shows that the unborn respond to sound by 22 to 24 weeks (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324464#fetal-hearing-at-each-stage-of-development), which synchronizes with what the angel told Mary — also in Luke’s Gospel — about her cousin being, “now in her sixth month” of pregnancy (Luke 1:26-38). Researchers have also found that this particular time in pregnancy is when auditory development is strongest. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1527336908001347
    • As one paper puts it, “the auditory system requires outside auditory stimulation. This needs to include speech, music, and meaningful sounds from the environment.”
    • This scene blends the dramatic and the scientific to impart a stirring message: John — who will become known as “The Voice” preparing the way of the Lord (John 1:23) — responds with excitement to another voice, that of Jesus’s mother, really the very first evangelist. There is a strong, miraculous connection — but one that is entirely plausible.
  • The Assumption Connection 
    • So what does any of this have to do with the Assumption and why does the Church give us this gospel for this particular solemnity? 
    • The story of The Visitation recounts the first time Jesus goes into the world —Pope Benedict has called it “the first Eucharistic Procession” https://papacitobenedicto.tumblr.com/post/652705381197447168/marys-visitation-to-her-cousin-elizabeth-was-in and it happens through the efforts of Mary, journeying from her hometown to announce something remarkable and inexplicable. In the middle of a miracle, a virgin’s conception through “the power of the Most High,” we also find physical reality, the movement of a child in the womb, stirred by the sound of a voice. 
    • In a similar way, Mary connects the earthly and the divine; that unique connection is honored and celebrated on this feast. We reflect on who she brought into the world, and how, and recall her eternal destiny in heaven. 
    • If we consider Mary as a traveler, we see the Assumption as yet another moment of journeying in Mary’s story — taking her to the ultimate destination, and her destiny, in heaven. 

Implications for us: 

  • Science tells us that those who travel may not only see the world differently; they may also develop an increased faith in humanity.
  • As we travel with Mary on this feast, we commit ourselves also to developing increased faith and commitment to serve the humanity redeemed through her own son’s incarnation 
  • Perhaps our faith in Mary, the traveling Madonna, mirrors her faith in us — and her Son’s abiding hope for our world that will continued to be transformed through the empathy of those who journey with Mary to the heart of Christ.

 

 

Tags: Empathy, Greg Kandra, Human Development, John the Baptist, Travel

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Preaching with Sciences

Edward Foley, Capuchin
Duns Scotus Professor Emeritus of Spirituality
Professor of Liturgy and Music (retired)
Catholic Theological Union
Vice-Postulator, Cause of Blessed Solanus