Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Are you dancing with joy?

Every evening as part of the Divine Office devout women and men around the world pray for the Church as a whole.   They offer up their time to God for each and every one of us.   Part of that Evening Prayer involves reciting the Prayer that Mary exclaimed, inspired by the Holy Spirit, when John danced before His savior and Lord in the womb.  That Prayer, which is recorded in The Gospel of Luke (Chapter 1:46-55) calls us to remember the beauty of what was occurring at this Visitation between young woman and old.   Here we have the promise of Zephaniah, the one from the first reading from this Feast Day, being fulfilled.   God has himself come to dwell with the Children of Israel.

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

This reminds us of a simple truth.  God's promises are always fulfilled, but it's up to us to keep striving for His will to be done in our lives.   Mary was a very young woman, by today's standards still a child.  Here this tween has found out that she is going to have the baby of God himself.   If that isn't stressful enough, she is an unwed mother who is promised to be married to a man named Joseph.  She could be stoned, shunned, alienated from her entire family and world.   Who knows how the people will react?  Even Joseph himself, who we are told is a good man, decides to discreetly divorce her so that others will not find out about it.  It's enough to send anyone spiraling into depression isn't it?  What happens though?  Mary goes to help Elizabeth.  With everything going on in her own life, she instead goes to help and rejoice over the good news of Elizabeth's pregnancy as well.

To both of their amazement the very moment she arrives John begins to dance in the womb.  Elizabeth declares "How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"  Elizabeth realizes more is going on here than what simply meets the eye.  Like David before him, John the Baptist is dancing before the Ark of the Covenant.  Here in Mary's womb is not just a normal human child.. but the very source of life itself, the Word of God.   The Ark contained the Rod of Aaron, the symbol of the Priesthood.   In the womb of Mary hides the very High Priest himself.   The Ark contained manna from the desert, in Mary resides the living bread from Heaven, of which a man must eat or he has no life in him.  The Ark Contained the tablets of stone on which were written the ten commandments.  Mary's womb reveals the tablets of flesh on which are written the very Law of God, to be lived out in perfection for all of us.

Mary's response to all of this, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was to speak out spontaneously a prayer that will change all nations.  The Magnificat.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Another translation says "My soul magnifies the lord."   A magnifying glass.  In computer talk we speak of GIGO.   Garbage in, Garbage out.   Jesus himself said that what comes out of our mouths comes from what resides in our heart.  (Mathew 15:18).  That's a powerful reminder that what we put in, what we listen to, what resides in us... that's what makes us who we are, and that's what comes out of us.   Are we proud of who we are?  Are we proud of our choices?  We can't take back the mistakes of the past, but we can change the future.  It is not written yet, we have not lived it.   We instead live in the now.  Are you becoming who you want to be?   Change it.   Make haste to the country where you can serve God the way he has called you, leave behind your own worries and needs and think of the other.  Mary set the bar high, she set the ultimate example of what it means to be a disciple of the Lord.   Her soul can magnify the Lord because she is filled with Him in a unique way, so fully so that she became pregnant with God himself.  My friend shared this reflection this morning:

"When I reflect upon Mary I think upon her friendship with God like this- she is (that is she exists) and she is beloved and loving through her relationship with the Father, she is fruitful and loving through her relationship with the Holy Spirit, she encounters God and expresses love in this world through the Son. No human is more beloved by the Father than Mary, none are more fruitful by the Holy Spirit than is Mary and none are more intimately involved in the entirety of the human life of the Son than Mary. The Blessed Trinity is the cause, the entire life of our Lady is the effect. She stands before us as an exemplar,the model of perfection. Through her relationship she experienced the greatest of all possible human joys, to be the mother of the Son of God, and the greatest of all possible human sorrows, to be the mother of the crucified Christ, and the greatest of all possible gifts, she received her Son back from the dead. She was at the center of human history, she lived a life of deepest obscurity in a little Galilean town. She was patient, before the Annunciation, she was active, in the Visitation, she was a woman of prayer, she was a mother to the Beloved Disciple" (author: Steven Hepburn)

Too many people think of Mary as just another woman.  As if God would choose just a random female out of all those available to have his own son.  We humans would never even do that!  Why would we think the Holy God, who created the Universe, would simply do that?  He wouldn't, and he did not.  He chose a woman who exemplified what it means to be pure, to be holy, to be obedient to God.  She has shown us the example of what it means to give our full yes, our full assent to God's plan.. and then to make haste to do His will.

Then if we want to be true disciples of Christ, true followers, who always and in every way give ourselves over fully to God's will; then we can start by examining those words today that Mary spoke.  It is up to us to make haste and go out to those in need of our help, regardless of our own worries and sorrows.  To jump for joy before the Lord, and seek understanding of what is going on in our lives.   To lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things.  To magnify the Lord in our lives.. and the only way we can do that is to have Him in them.  Not just at Church, but to take that sacramental presence that we receive at Mass in the Eucharist and take Him with us everywhere and to every person!  God promises joy and mercy.  Are our lives examples of that?   I know mine does not always show it.  I have work to do, a lot of it.. but I know where to begin... by encountering Christ in the Sacraments.   Who is with me?  Are you ready to dance for joy before the presence of Christ?

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."