In Gospel reading (Luke 1:26-38; Luke 1:39-4), we see Elizabeth and her unborn son, John, joyfully reacting to the nearness of the unborn Christ. Since Jesus wasn’t visibly saving the world yet, how could this happen?
We can safely guess that Elizabeth was already feeling joyful, since after many infertile years she had become pregnant and, increasing her joy, she knew that she carried a son who was destined to be very special for the kingdom of God. And I’m sure she was happy to see her delightful relative, Mary.
Yet, surely Elizabeth’s joy was tested by the difficulties of being pregnant at an old age and even the normal problems of everyday life. How come she didn’t greet Mary with complaints about the extra weight that was making her back ache or about her husband’s sin that had struck him dumb?
The scripture doesn’t say that Elizabeth was filled with “joy” but that she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Her joy, which was evidenced in the greeting she gave to Mary, was a fruit of the Spirit, nourished by faith.
How much joy do you have? If the answer is “not enough”, why? You have the presence of God’s Spirit within you. How much faith in the Holy Spirit’s love do you really have?
If your faith isn’t strong enough to enable you to experience joy in the difficulties of life, work at increasing your relationship with this important Person of the Trinity. Meditate on the fact that God loves you so much he gave you his own Spirit.
The Spirit’s gift of joy is not a feeling like happiness, which depends on outside circumstances. The experience of joy comes from an awareness that God is taking good care of you despite the outside circumstances. It’s the awareness of the Spirit’s inner presence and the love and the power that come with it.
Think about the unborn baby in Elizabeth’s womb. He was incapable of understanding anything that was happening outside the womb, yet he leapt for joy. He’s an example of the effect that the Holy Spirit can have on us. We don’t need to see God working before we leap for joy. We don’t even have to understand what God is doing.
Mary, whom we remember today for her appearance in Guadalupe, found her joy in God her savior. She did not say, “My spirit finds joy in my unborn son.” Nor did she say, “My spirit finds joy in becoming the mother of God the savior.” She did not yet understand how Jesus would become the savior.
Mary’s joy came from the Holy Spirit. We, too, can “sing and rejoice” – express joy again and again – as we are told in the reading from Zechariah, because he who is joy has come to dwell in us and “stirs forth from his holy dwelling” which is us.
How much faith in the Holy Spirit’s love do you really have? All the faith you need! Faith is a gift, not a feeling that we have to conjure up. Tap into that faith in the midst of any difficult circumstance by stopping to meditate on the truth that God’s Spirit is with you.