On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel will introduce us to God’s gift of holy relationships.
It takes us with the Virgin Mary as she travels in haste into the Judean Hill Country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-45). This happens soon after Saint Gabriel asks Mary, on behalf of God, to be the Mother of the Messiah. He tells her that Elizabeth, who is very old, is pregnant. We have come to understand he shares this information to confirm to Mary that this strange and wonderful event that is happening to her is the way God works,
“For nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37).
Additionally, I believe God had St. Gabriel share this information with Mary because she needed someone with whom to share the wonder of God. She needed a holy relationship. Joseph, still to be prepared to embrace his role as guardian of Jesus and Mary, had not yet been brought into the mystery of the Incarnation.
With the news of her cousin’s pregnancy, Mary feels called to go, but she must have wondered if she can trust Elizabeth with the news of her own pregnancy. God does not make her wonder long. He fills Elizabeth with His Spirit at the moment they see each other and she exclaims,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled (Lk 1:42-45).”
Wow! No wonder Mary’s response was her song of praise, the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56). Their three months together surely included many conversations sharing their faith in God and discussing his “impossible” ways in their lives!
The Importance of Having Holy Relationships
Holy relationships are important, and God wants us to have them. Consider Jesus, who was born into a family, living for 30 years in holy relationships with Mary and Joseph, and then calling disciples into a relationship with him as soon as he embarked on his active ministry. Holy relationships help us to grow in our Christian faith; for God Himself is a holy relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be in holy relationships is part of our Christian identity.
Holy relationships as explained here are not primarily about evangelization, though they certainly can evangelize us. Holy relationships are also not about having to prove God is at work in you or wanting the other to tell you what they think God is doing in you. That is for our pastors and spiritual directors. Holy relationships I am referring to are similar to what Mary and Elizabeth must have enjoyed. They are simply about sharing our faith journey with one or more in a mutual acknowledgment, affirmation, and appreciation of God as living in, through, and with us.
I have a couple of friends who fit this description. One is a holy relationship in which we take a couple of hours a week walking and talking about what God is doing in our lives. We do not give each other advice unless we are asked. We talk and we listen, that’s it. Another holy relationship is someone with whom I have absolutely nothing in common. Marveling at this, I once told her, “You know we are only friends because of Jesus.” We both laughed as she agreed. In our mutual talking and listening, she has been such an encouragement, and I believe she can say the same about me.
How Does One Cultivate a Holy Relationship?
The best way I know is through faith studies or ministries. Participating in a bible study or volunteering at a ministry is a great way to meet like-minded, Jesus-centered people with whom we can cultivate deep and lasting holy relationships. If personal restrictions keep us from actively participating at a parish or ministry, there are many virtual opportunities that can serve to form holy relationships right from our homes.
Holy relationships are God’s gifts for us to receive and be continuously renewed in our faith, but it does take discernment and a bit of courage to know who we can trust. Pray to the Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth to help you both find and reach out to potential spiritual companions. Pray also that you will be a trustworthy companion in return. It is well worth the risk and effort.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.