Pope Francis has chosen December 8th as the beginning of "The Year of Mercy” – a year of reaching out, encountering others, and being witness to God’s caring for them.

On this day we honor Mary as the Immaculate Conception, the best expression of human goodness, someone who received God’s love which overcomes the brokenness of our nature.

The Gospel story of Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth, her much older cousin, demonstrates the power of God’s presence working through Mary.  She is, in fact, the first disciple because she heard and acted upon the Word of God.

The evangelist Luke tells us how happy Elizabeth was with Mary’s surprise visit:

 “…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’.”

Pope Francis has called us to make a special effort in this Year of Mercy to reach out to others, to encounter those who need our help, our attention, and our words of understanding.

And the Gospel assures us that there will be great rejoicing.