‘Man becomes truly himself precisely at the point when he recognizes that the highest and brightest Being dwells within him.’ Fr. Alfred Delp
A young man once moved in across the street from me. He was an actor-dancer, ‘gay-identified’ and had come to the big city to star in a ‘gay’ holiday cowboy review. Wow. I politely refused his invite to bring my family for the opening. I did promise to be a good neighbor and if it was ok, to pray for him and give him any words I received.
I prayed a lot for him. As I listened, I kept receiving pictures of him as a family man—alongside wife, enjoying kids, etc. I thought I was projecting my experience on him but the Word persisted and I had to give it. He was confused at first: ‘What don’t you get about ‘gay,’ dude?’ I told him about my walk with Jesus out of ‘gay’ stuff and how Jesus always moves us in the direction of Reality—being reconciled to what our bodies are for. Committed creative communions may be better and truer expressions of our real selves than western hijinks, I surmised. He thought about it, and we had good talks. He moved away, roused by Reality.
Rousing Reality is what the ‘Visitation’ (Lk. 1:39-45)--today’s Gospel--is all about.
Four candles now blaze like prophetic fire in the darkness, shining on Mary and summoning her best. She’s scared. Pregnant, just in her teens, no amount of piety wards off her urgent need for confirmation. She summons her older cousin, also with child, for the Word that leaps and prophecies. Elizabeth’s womb cannot contain the fetal Baptist’s glee; he releases the Spirit to his mom who declares with radical authority: ‘How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’
Do we grasp the Spirit’s call for us to leap and rouse divine Reality in our fellows? Often, the Word is stronger in our hearts than in our brother’s. St. Paul implores us to eagerly seek prophetic gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), exemplified by Elizabeth’s declaration of who Mary is, Mother of God, about to deliver the Savior of the universe. And who our neighbor, our child, our spouse, our pastor, the lumpy member next to us in the pew, is, in truth.
I wouldn’t be here today without Spirit-filled churchman in whom the prophetic Word leapt, declared, and shattered my pathetic self-definitions. Though I swaggered my stuff, no amount of posturing displaced the demonic shame and accusation over my life. A lovely woman reminded me one Sunday that I was ‘Andrew’, in the Greek, God’s masculine son, a warrior. I couldn’t have felt less noble. But she roused Reality in me and in agreement with St. Paul ‘saw me not from a worldly perspective’ (2 Cor. 5:16). She roused the new creation (v. 17), one endowed with power to be reconciled to the Father’s design for my life.
The Visitation invites us to look for what is most authentic and creative in ourselves. And in our loved ones. Maybe we spend too much time freaking out over their confusion. Maybe Jesus wants us to become like Elizabeth, inspired and attuned to what is most beautiful about our cousin. Or spouse. Or boss. Offer your prophetic gift. Rouse Reality in your most difficult family member this Christmas.