“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste” (Lk 1:39). Why? Because she was filled with joy. She had just experienced an incredible encounter with the angel Gabriel telling her that she was to bear the “holy, Son of God” (Lk 1:35). She also learned that her relative Elizabeth, who had been barren, was six months pregnant. Who better to understand and appreciate what she had gone through than Elizabeth? When we hear good news we want to share it with someone, especially when we believe another will fully appreciate our experience.
Is there a time when you felt overjoyed about something that you felt like you were going to burst and you couldn’t wait to share your experience? A memory may have already started forming in your mind, a smile and glow may be radiating from your eyes as you re-experience that moment.
One such graced encounter I had was when I was in my early twenties and dealing with a heavy personal issue. I was living in Sharon, Connecticut at the time and had an opportunity to go to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to participate in a penance service. I walked up hesitantly to a kind-looking, elderly, polish Marian priest. His name alludes me now, but not his face. He radiated invitation and mercy. After a few stammering words, I let loose and shared what I had been dealing with. When he offered absolution, I felt the burden physically lift, I felt almost like levitating. Then a surge of joy welled up in me that lasted for days.
There is a great gift in sharing a burden with a trusted friend or family member, being heard and supported, and/or receiving absolution from a priest. We need to resist the temptation of turning within ourselves, trusting in the lie that we can handle our conflicts, challenges, and trials all on our own. There is a pearl of great price, God’s healing grace, that is available to us when we share our journeys with one another. In this way, we come to realize concretely that we do not have to go through our pain and suffering alone!
Many of us are struggling with a lot, and sometimes we are not at our best, nor do we make our best decisions, we react instead of act, we get caught in the momentum of behavior that we know is not acceptable, and we continue to slide. The key is not to beat ourselves up and walk around feeling guilty. There are enough people who would be happy to sign up to do that. Instead, we need to choose to practice a healthy sense of guilt, examine our conscience, be mindful, and able to admit when we have done something inappropriate or wrong.
That is the key to reconciliation, embracing the humility to admit our sin, to be contrite – sorry for what we have done, not upset or defensive because we got caught, and to follow the counsel of James: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Then when we have experienced the joy of forgiveness, of reconciliation, may we be like Mary, and go in haste to share with others the wonderful gift we have received and invite them to do the same!
Photo: “Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?” – Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us!