The Spirit prepares our hearts
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. On the Sunday before Christmas we are all of us hoping to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What is the Spirit saying to us as we enter the last week of Advent in the year of Our Lord 2018? The Spirit is urging us, moving us, to recognise our Saviour who is about to be born. With the help of the Holy Ghost we are to know the One who has been so long promised, so long looked forward to, yet who can somehow, even by his friends, be missed, overlooked or ignored. The Spirit prepares our heart to know Christ.
What sort of knowledge is this?
What sort of knowledge is this? It is practical and effective. Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country. The Spirit moves us to action, to charitable effort and to make the journey which must be made. The Holy Spirit of God also makes us enterprising. Mary was pregnant. It was dangerous to travel. She had her own concerns, immediate ones and others about the future. Cousinly love took her to Elizabeth. She recognised a need. There was solidarity. There was fellow-feeling with Elizabeth that God had done something wonderful for them both for his good purposes. These babies, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ would do God’s work. Their mothers were already doing that work by carrying them, by nurturing them, by bringing them into the world. Mary and Elizabeth knew what to do. This was knowledge which was planted deep within. Some of our knowledge, some of our understanding, some of our best instincts are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Such knowledge informs and defines our humanity. God has created us to do good and to do so with understanding and insight and joy.
Already a disciple
The Holy Spirit also gives us the right words. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the child leapt in her womb. Mary’s greeting, full of love and concern, full of truth, and faith, and trust in God, spoke directly to Elizabeth and to her unborn child. God the Spirit was speaking in this greeting. God spoke through Our Lady. This was the moment of salvation for John the Baptist. He acknowledged Christ even before he was born. He leaped for joy at being saved. He would be born already a disciple. For us too the Holy Spirit offers words which bring us joy and which invite us to a life-time commitment to Christ. The Blessed Virgin Mary said Let it be done…according to your will and on another occasion Do as my Son says. The Holy Spirit addresses us in these inspired counsels. They are words of obedience and faith but also words which breathe trust and contentment and. The Spirit of God dwells in us and helps us to express ourselves. Indeed the self that we might want to express is itself a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a new creation of God, a word, or perhaps many words, long planted within us which have blossomed in a disciple’s character and personality. This self is our own. The Holy Spirit transforms us. He does not rob us of our nature.
A spirit of recognition and appreciation and gratitude
And as Mary and John the Baptist so Elizabeth. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a spirit of recognition and appreciation and gratitude. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? A question we might all ask. The Mother of God carrying her child approaches us all at this time of year (in fact, always) helping us to know her Son, placing us with him, favouring our recognition of what is most important. Saint Elizabeth understands the significance of the faith of Mary for us all. Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled. The promises of Christ address themselves to everyone. They are promises about abundance of life, about happiness, about the vision of God, about justice and truth. Our Lady shows us how to trust these promises, how to believe, how to have faith. She gave a complete Yes, she gave assent to God’s will without reservation, she gave herself. Self-giving is a sacrifice before which we sometimes flinch but Our Lady shows us how to make it. Gently she teaches us to make such a sacrifice with grace and understanding and contentment, in the manner of the Son.
We will see new life
The Holy Spirit, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us words and knowledge and the power of recognition. Soon, equipped by the Spirit, we will look into the stable at Bethlehem and we will see new life. This new life will be Jesus. Jesus is born for us. So if, impelled by the Holy Spirit, we recognise his new life we will also be recognising our own new life. This is a recognition well worth according. It is well worth preparing to make. There is a patience required of us in these holy days: we await something of the very greatest importance which we could miss, which could pass us by: let us be patient; let us be alert. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.