Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series
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Summary: Mary and Elizabeth offer us some insights into the disciplines and practices of the interior life.

Our Gospel on this Fourth Sunday of Advent begins with: “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste.”

This reminds me of a sign I saw outside a church this morning, “Hurry in this Sunday to beat the Christmas rush.”

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth recalls the importance of spiritual accompaniment and mentoring--

1.) St. John of the Cross said that some people do not advance in spirituality because “sometimes they misunderstand themselves and are without suitable and alert directors.”

For example, to focus on one pattern or issue that emerges from the person’s life over the last month and to revisit a particular instance of that. From there the person may be able to bring into the present an unnoticed encounter with God. The director may then be able to see which spirit is at work (‘good’ or ‘bad’) and make this explicit to the directee. The session takes the person from remembering an encounter with God from the past several weeks to meeting God again here and now.

Consider that it is Elizabeth’s attentive listening to Mary’s words of greeting that sets off the unborn John the Baptist’s joyful leap, and Elizabeth herself utters a blessing that underlines the close connection between faith and attention to God’s word.

Spiritual direction and mentoring is even more important in these chaotic times e.g. The Archangel Gabriel told Mary to go mentor and spend time helping Elizabeth. And Elizabeth is happy to see her.

Both Mary and Elizabeth were experiencing key life transitions. Their shared experience of pregnancy extends the bonds of kinship between them and provides sustenance, strength and support to both, breaking the isolation that could bar each of them from entering into the deepest possible understanding of themselves and what God is doing in the course of their lives.

What is God doing in your life? Where is God active in your life?

The desire to share this in spiritual direction or mentoring is the mark of the Good Spirit.

For example, St. Ignatius Loyola tells us that the devil loves secrecy (like a false lover in courtship for those contemplating marriage), since he can easily have his way with one who is not open to a good director.

Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months which indicates the daily give-and-take of what transpired between them and suggests that the relationship between mentor and protégé is one that develops patiently, taking its time as a matter of accompaniment, not as a single simple intervention.

Elizabeth’s words to Mary were, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

This speaks of reciprocal mentoring or being blessed by our sharing with others.

“How can I grow in trusting God? How is God’s word being fulfilled in my life?”

Amen.

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