A young man who repented as a teen from ‘gay’ identification, Nate is growing into his masculinity as Jesus grows within him. I have the privilege of summoning what I see in this progressively robust man of God. Nothing brings me greater joy.
It is easy. Nate says ‘yes’ to Jesus and Jesus guides him into getting what he needs. You like me are called to confirm that growth in the lives of our fellow Christians. In the Spirit of John the Baptist, we can see Jesus growing in others, and speak out the truth of His Real Presence in their lives. That is the essence of Christian community. And its first and most beautiful expression lies in our fourth Advent reading—the visitation of newly pregnant Mary with her cousin Elizabeth (LK 1:39-45).
As soon as Mary sees Elizabeth, the latter, now ripe with John the Baptist, is stirred up by the fiery prophet within who jumps for joy (v.44) to welcome the Christ growing in Mary. Even the fetal John makes straight the way of the Lord! He cannot help it; Jesus is in his midst and even a womb cannot contain him from summoning the prenatal Creator and Redeemer of all.
Elizabeth follows the lead of her precocious son but fulfills a different yet equally important task: to encourage Mary with a Spirit-inspired prophecy. We can infer that a 14-year-old who just discovered that she had been impregnated by God might need a little solidarity (understatement duly noted).
Mary ‘hastens’ to Elizabeth because she needs her. The Mother of God knew somehow that the new life growing in her cousin would summon the new life growing in her. ‘Blessed are you, Mary, for you have believed what the Lord said to you would be fulfilled’ (v.45). Elizabeth nails it: ‘You are not crazy Mary; you are and will be forever blessed. God is growing in you and I honor your faith!’
Each of us needs that encouragement from wiser ones who like us have walked in faith against a cruel, unbelieving culture. Elizabeth had been barren and socially scorned; Mary could have been stoned for her mysterious pregnancy. They knew God alone had masterminded the divine gifts growing within them. Their bond of faith was profound and essential for the fulfillment of that faith.
Similarly, we whom Jesus leads out of any barren, shameful land need fellow pilgrims. We need the holy-wrinkled who have endured the desert longer. Jesus in our fellow humanity is stronger than Jesus in our own hearts. Why else do we go to church? Sorry, I do not go just to find my Head. I go to find His body. I need another to see and summon the Christ growing in me.
And I have the mutual privilege of summoning Jesus in my brother or sister. Nothing grants me greater joy than looking for the one in whom Jesus waits to be summoned behind a veil of sin or sadness. To be filled with the Spirit of John the Baptist or Elizabeth, my spirit leaping so I just have to say why ‘you’ are such a beautiful gift to this church…that is my joy.
We all hold promises in our hearts that need to be dusted off and reconfirmed in our believing communities. Go ahead. Be a prophet. Summon the divine life seated next to you at church. ‘Blessed are you who believe that what God has said to you would be fulfilled’(LK 1:45)!