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In Friendship We Become Who We Really Are

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(12-20-09) The young teenager, Mary of Nazareth, was indeed shocked by the news that she was to be the mother of "the son of the Most High". . . It was news that she could not yet begin to understand. . . news that radically and radiantly interrupted her life." Whom could she possibly tell? How could her friends or young Joseph, whom she deeply loved, possibly understand her situation? If she could not explain it to herself-then how could she share this intimate knowledge with anyone else.

In the midst of her confusion ---a confusion somehow subordinated to her faith the Lord Adonai offered Mary an intimate, human friend with whom she could share this knowledge. . . someone, who, like Mary had experienced God's intervention in her own life---someone who, like Mary, had also been called as well to give a response of faith. Mary set out at once into the hill country to travel south to Judaea to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth. pregnant in advanced age had stayed out of the picture for the past five months.

Young Mary, whom the angel Gabriel had greeted, now greets Elizabeth. Because she carries the Savior in her womb, her greeting is more than a simple pleasantry-it becomes a greeting of the gospel of salvation. Prompted by the Holy Spirit Elizabeth proclaims Mary as blessed. Elizabeth, in giving hospitality to Jesus is drawn deeply into God's own hospitality-his hospitable love for her. Elizabeth praises Mary's faith-a faith that had set Mary on her journey. Elizabeth then recounts what she has just experienced. It would have been much easier for Mary if she had been able to confide in Joseph; easier for her who would soon be pained by the town gossips guessing about her pregnant condition. It would have been easier for Elizabeth, if her pregnancy had come at an earlier age-and if she hadn't had to face the disapproving glances and unkind comments of her neighbors that the Lord was somehow punishing her because of her barrenness. (But God's timing is not our timing.)

Through these two women God has changed the course of our history, Mary apparently recognized that only Elizabeth would be able to help her to affirm her own "yes" to the Lord-when she had said: "Be it done to me according to your word." Both Elizabeth, the mother of the "prophet of the Most High" and Mary, the mother of the "Son of the Most High" assisted one another to grow more deeply in the awareness of their vocations. In this "community of friendship' they waited together and helped one another to deepen in their faith in God. In their months together these two women pondered in their hearts about God's most radical intervention into history.

Elizabeth, a wise older guide, wrapped the confused and bewildered teen age mother-to-be in her embrace. During the time together they would share their wisdom and strength as they grew more deeply in their awareness of the Lord Adonai's love for them. Through Jesus in Mary God was visiting his people.

From this sharing of two women you and I learn that our own growth is never solitary. You and I always stand in need of a few deep friends who accept us and help us to grow more deeply: in understanding ourselves, in coming to grips with our deep personal identity-- as the beloved of God.

May you and I express the hospitality of the Lord by what we say and do to others whom we are privileged to reach out to in their need. In turn they assist us to grow in the thrilling, on-going adventure of becoming "alive in the Lord." It may well be that those few other-those precious few-may not even be aware of how they are helping us to grow in responding to the Lord's ever-present love for us.

May we realize that each and every one of us is a part of a greater whole. . . .the community of humankind. How wonderful it is to be human and to companion one another on our journey.

At times in our lives, we may well find ourselves almost lost in wonder and in gratitude to a few solid friends whom the Lord sends into our lives- friends who can affirm us, guide us, correct us. We then discover or rediscover that we can grow more readily into who we really are-the beloved of God. We become ever more responsive to the Lord Jesus who showers us with his never-ending hospitality.

Read other homilies by Father Paul