The First Disciple of Christ Provides a Model for us All…Faith, Joy, and Love

by Angela Lambert

Visitation-Elizabeth-Joy.jpg

December 20th, 2015;  4th Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “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.”

Meditation Reflection:

Mary’s relationship with God offers a beautiful and powerful witness for all Christians of the path of discipleship. She begins by faithful adherence to the Covenant God had made with His people. She prays regularly, lives by God’s laws, and follows the requirements of the Jewish religion. Next God approaches her personally, offering her an opportunity and love beyond natural experience and imagination. Mary responds with belief of both mind and will. Christ becomes incarnate in her womb and she experiences a union with God she never could have anticipated had she not experienced it. Moreover, her loving yes to God makes possible the union of Christ with every human person when He takes on our nature.

Mary then travels “in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant in her old age. Union with Christ, the indwelling of the Trinity, produces what Fr. Dubay terms a “Fire Within” which always produces love of neighbor. Mary, the first disciple of Christ, begins her Christian walk through service to Christ and service toward others.

Upon meeting Elizabeth the Holy Spirit stirs in the hearts of both women and their unborn children. The gifts of knowledge and understanding were bestowed on them, even the unborn John the Baptist. Discipleship is accompanied by the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit which enable the Christian to live at a supernatural level which exceeds merely natural expectations. Moreover, upon receiving the Holy Spirt, disciples of Christ are given the infused virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love) at Baptism. Infused means they are given directly to the soul by God rather than acquired through habitual action like the moral virtues. Moreover, the theological virtues must be infused by God because they have as their end things beyond the limits of human nature.

The two women and their unborn children share a visible and overwhelming joy. John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, Elizabeth cries out in a loud voice, and we see next in the Gospel that Mary breaks into rejoicing as well with her famous Magnificat – testifying with faith, hope, love, and joy to truths about God’s goodness and mercy. Mary sings the deepest sentiments of every Christian who has experienced the love of God in his or her life:

And Mary said:

“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.”

 Discipleship begins with receiving God’s love which then ignites a fire in us to love Him in return. St. John, the beloved disciple, writes in his first letter, “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19).   That love then spreads to every human person because Christians see Christ and the love He has for each one of us in others. As a result, St. John writes next in verses 20-21, “If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

These last few days of Advent, let us prepare for the coming of Christ in our souls and the powerful transformation of love that it will effect. Let us take Mary as our example and cherish Christ within us in prayer, fellowship, and service.

Consider:

  • Where are you at in your Christian walk?
    • Consider how far you have come and reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
    • Consider what the next step may be.
      • Do you struggle believing in the love and joy God has for you?
      • Is there something you are clinging to instead of God?
      • Has the joy of discipleship born fruits of service? How might you act on that?
      • Do you spend time in prayer praising and thanking God?
      • Is there a spiritual friend you could rejoice with and talk about God’s actions in your lives? Consider how Mary was not only a physical comfort to Elizabeth but also a spiritual comfort since they could relate to one another spiritually about God’s miraculous work in both of their lives.
    • Reflect on the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Reflect on one of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit for each day this week: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord.7 Gifts of the HS
  • Reflect on one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit for each day this week: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.
  • Practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy (see last week’s reflection).

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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