The (Divine) Life Within

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you
-Zephaniah 3:17

Take a moment to soak in the reality of those words of Scripture.  The Lord God is in your midst.  He dwells within you.  Close your eyes for a moment and draw close to that reality of God in you right now. 

It is so rare to take moments to intentionally focus in on the reality of God within us.  This is something I want to do more regularly throughout my day to maintain a sense of connection with Him – the almighty God who dwells within me. 

Currently, I have a very unique and physical way of learning how to do this – my husband and I are expecting our first child in a few months, and as our child dwells within my womb I am brought inward to the reality of this life within.  As our baby grows, this reality is becoming more and more apparent as I have begun to feel our baby’s movements throughout my day.  However, up to this point in my pregnancy, it has been easier than I would have imagined to go about much of my day without actively thinking about the life inside me.  Then a gentle movement within reminds me to connect, to say hello to him or her, and thank God for the life He has placed within me.  This experience has me thinking about the other life dwelling within me – the Divine Life.  Each of us has the source of all life dwelling within us, and it can be all too easy to go about our days without consciously connecting to this Divine reality.  Today’s readings remind me of how present and powerful our Father’s love for each of us is and that He is here for us at every moment, and loves us so much that He has chosen to dwell within us through His Holy Spirit. 

The inner life of Christ in us finds its source in the love of the Father, which is exclaimed so beautifully in today’s optional reading from the book of Zephaniah, especially in the passage that I used to begin this reflection.  The Lord is in your midst, He rejoices over you in gladness, He renews you in His love… He sings joyfully because of you.  The psalm continues with this incredible theme and reality: The Holy One is among us and this should inspire us to “give thanks,” “proclaim,” “sing praise,” and “shout with exultation!” 

As we enter into this reality, as we allow ourselves to be still and receive this love and blessing of our Father, we meet the heart of Mary.  Today’s Gospel guides us into Mary’s reality.  Mary is the perfect example of the reception of God’s blessing.  Mary’s confidence in the Father’s love, her trust in His plan, and her “strength and courage in the Lord,” as today’s psalmist says, have opened her heart to receive the Lord into her very being.  The source of all life, God Himself, took on human form and grew within the humble being of our Blessed Mother.  Though Mary was granted the special privilege of bearing God in a unique way as His mother, we all have been granted the privilege of holding and nurturing the life of Christ within us through our baptism, the Eucharist, and all of the sacraments of the church.  His life IS within us and Mary exemplifies what it looks like when we are open to receiving this love and connecting with this Love everyday.    

As Mary visits Elizabeth, the simple sound of her greeting is so full of the Father’s love and such a pure channel of the life of Christ within her that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb – the unborn St. John the Baptist – leaps!  This is the power of God to touch, inspire, and ignite others by His love.  The Divine presence is so alive in Mary (literally!) that He moves through everything she is and everything she does.  Her magnificat, her magnification of the Lord (Lk 1:46-55), found later in this Gospel passage reveals, yet again, the source of this life within her – the Father’s love. 

Because Mary is so united with the Father’s love and the life of Christ, her being is truly filled with the Divine Life of God.  So her soul can’t help but “proclaim the greatness of the Lord.”  Her spirit can’t help but “rejoice in God!”  This is the transformation of grace we are all invited to partake in.  It all begins with the Father’s love and blessing – and our reception of it.  Zephaniah reminds us how the Father loves us and pours this blessing over us and Mary reveals how the Divine life can be received by us and then pour forth from us, in the grace of God and by the power of His Holy Spirit. 

May we be inspired today, and everyday, to become more aware of the Divine Life within us.  As an expectant mother becomes more aware of the subtle movements of the child growing within her, may God’s grace help us become increasingly aware of every movement of His Spirit within us.  As our own awareness of this Divine and powerful life within us grows and we allow ourselves to receive Him more fully, He will continue to transform us.  His grace is abundant and can’t help but pour forth from a soul so united to Him.  Let’s look to Mary’s example and become channels of the Father’s love and life so that each of our souls can’t help but “proclaim the greatness” of our God!

Blessed Are You

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
—Luke 1:43

Although she did not know it, Elizabeth’s whole life had been leading up to this moment. For decades, she had lived in quiet piety in a small, ordinary village. Her whole married life she had prayed for a child, until her childbearing years had passed and she was an old woman. Through all this disappointment and seemingly unanswered prayers, Elizabeth never grew bitter toward God. She remained a faithful servant, bringing glory to God in her barrenness. Her hope was a sign of God’s grace to her people, for even in her desolation, His promises sustained her soul.

And then, to Elizabeth’s surprise, she was called to be a sign of God’s grace in a new, miraculous way: as the mother of John the Baptist, the one who would point the way to the Messiah. We see in today’s Gospel the account of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, when each had just received a wondrous and weighty mission from God. They greeted one another in exaltation, amazed at how God was using them to bear His grace into the world.

Elizabeth’s faithfulness to God in all the small moments of her life prepared her to speak those prophetic words: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” After so many years in prayer, speaking with God and listening to His voice, she recognized with joy and humility that she was now in His presence. She marveled at the roles He had entrusted to her and to Mary—never comparing each other’s blessings and sorrows, but instead embracing the important role she had been given.

Each of us bears the image of God into the world, and each of us has an important calling to fulfill. As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we also be aware of God’s presence in the people around us. May we, like Elizabeth, call out with joy as we recognize the blessedness of our brothers and sisters, delighting in one another’s gifts.