Today is the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. This feast is a wonderful opportunity to ponder how we encounter and respond to the movements of the Lord. Mary hears the words of the Angel Gabriel, and she believes. She believes and she responds, not only with her great fiat -"be it done to me according to thy word" - but also with an immediate act of charity and generosity, anticipating the needs of her cousin. In haste Mary goes to Elizabeth, who is expecting to give birth "in her old age" to the prophet John the Baptist. Mary holds nothing back, she responds to God immediately, and He in turn holds nothing back from her. God responds to Mary's unrestrained giving of herself with a joyous affirmation, by Elizabeth, of the unbelievable events that are occurring. Elizabeth's prophetic response to the Holy Spirit was:
"Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For 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."Both she and Elizabeth believed and responded with the whole of their hearts! What would happen if you and I responded to God with such generosity? What would happen if all the passion and desire that we so easily allow to misdirect us, or, even worse, through fear we suppress, were given over to the Lord with a daily fiat? What could happen if we accepted our lowliness, our nothingness without fear and allowed the Mighty One to sweep us away in His divine love? What could happen if we did not avoid the deep emptiness that reveals our spiritually starved souls, but feared comfort that dulls and obscures our longings until it was too late and we are too lost? Time is running out for you and for me. Can we respond with Mary's beautiful canticle, rejoicing in our nothingness, because it is that humility which allows the unfathomable love of God to direct our paths through this valley of tears?
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones; but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant remembering his mercy according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
Maybe this seem like an odd diversion, but I have just re-read T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There are various analyses of the poem, but just today I watched a YouTube video on the Holy Spirit by Father Robert Barron in which he used a quote from the poem, " I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" as an example of a life lived withholding generous love. A life lived afraid and unresponsive to passion and desire, and Prufrock is aware that time is running out. It struck me that the frustrated sense of decay, unfulfilled longings and desires that permeates the poem speaks of a lack of the overflowing love of the Spirit of God. A withholding of love indicates a lack of love. The stanza before has Prufrock wondering "Do I dare disturb the universe?" Well, with the Spirit of God directing those longings, desires and passions they will not only not be suppressed, they will fearlessly pour out with love unending and disturb the universe, but in a way according to the word of God.
Brothers and sisters: Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Romans 12: 9-16
Respond to God as Mary did; disturb the universe! Not by grasping at power or by fantasizing about mighty deeds, but by the transformation of your heart and soul through the humble reception of the Word! Let the Spirit flow through you with courage and joy, anticipating the needs of others and pouring out with unrestrained love. Do you dare disturb the universe? Do I? Let us pray with Mary and Elizabeth today for an unrestrained and passionate response to the Spirit!
Peace and Grace!