Set Out In Haste

The phrase “gone, but not forgotten” is associated with songs, movies, a TV show episode, a novel, a poem. It is different from another well-known phrase, “out of sight, out of mind.” These sayings address a common enough human experience: absence and presence. When someone is not immediately at hand, do we forget or remember this person? The answer to this question rests largely on how important this person is for us. The more love we have,the more this individual is always present to us. Physical proximity is not the measure of presence; attentiveness (even in absence) and love are.

This Sunday’s gospel addresses absence and presence. Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and they were present to each other in a most extraordinary encounter. Clearly also present and active was the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary to conceive the Savior of the world, inspired Elizabeth to extol Mary and the “fruit of [her] womb,” and prompted the unborn John to leap for joy. The Holy Spirit brought an intensity to each encounter that augured the singularity and significance of all these happenings. Mary didn’t simply “set out” to visit Elizabeth; she went “in haste.” Elizabeth didn’t simply say “hello” to Mary, but “cried out in a loud voice” the blessings of Mary and her unborn infant. John didn’t simply give a gentle kick in Elizabeth’s womb at this encounter, but “leaped for joy.”

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, quickly approaching our celebration of the birth of the Son of God, we need to open ourselves to receive this same intensity from the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit overshadows, inspires, and prompts those of us who believe to “set out” “in haste” to touch others with divine Presence. Elizabeth blesses Mary because she “believed” that God would fulfill in her all that the angel Gabriel had said  to her. Now so must we believe that God fulfills in us all the goodness and love that is promised us. As with Mary, our every choice, every act, every encounter must disclose our heart’s desire to carry the Presence of the Lord to others. And to do so with haste.