“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” – Lk. 1:39-45
The story of the Visitation invites us to move beyond our own personal agendas and engage in authentic ministry. Mary had her own preoccupations, concerns, and worries after receiving news from Gabriel. How will this affect her relationship with Joseph? How will she trust God and be free from what others may possibly think? What if she fails? What if she was crazy and this message is not really from God? In spite of her fears, doubts, and questions, Mary trusted her prayer experience and responded with charity and human solidarity by visiting and being with her cousin, Elizabeth, who struggled with infertility for years and was now six months pregnant. Mary came to serve; yet she was consoled by Elizabeth, “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?”
Sometimes even the call of angels needs the reinforcement of a human touch. Growing up in the Mar Vista Gardens housing projects and familiar with the stories of violence, crime, suffering, and disparity in Fr. Greg Boyle’s book, Tattoos of the Heart, I feared condemnation, judgment, and further exclusion. This uneasiness took deeper root when I attended Loyola Marymount University, which was only ten minutes away from my reality. On one hand, I felt grateful and chosen by God to receive a private Jesuit education. But the other palm held the questions: “Is it okay to be me? Will others have the opportunity to get to know me for who I am?” When reflecting upon my most meaningful relationships, they are often those that continued beyond the juncture at which they came closest to ending. By stretching myself to honesty and vulnerability, these companions offered enough compassion to make me feel safe within my broken need and helped transmute my fear and anxiety. They turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, enabling me to walk with greater peace, understanding, and support. When receiving this type of love and trust, I look forward to sharing these deeper parts of myself with these companions and anticipate hearing what is going on in the depths of their lives as well. The world becomes a gentler place and gratitude grows into an unceasing response for me.
God invites us to share our lives and offer one another the gift of undivided presence as we continue our Advent journey. He encourages us to be generous and generative like Mary and Elizabeth by listening carefully and reverently to each other. He draws us to a life of spiritual companionship of not only serving, but to also be served, cared for, loved, and consoled.
Where am I called to alleviate suffering in my current relationships?
How willing am I to be transformed if I chose to love with all of my intelligence?