The pandemic has challenged a lot of things in our lives. Our health, work, faith, mental well-being, the list just goes on until now. But one thing that was really put into test is our relationships. May it be among family members, friends, loved ones, community and even among strangers in social media. Our situation now placed a huge question mark on our relationships. We were all put in a dark place and that placed our relationships in the dark too.
The biggest question for me was “how do I take care of my relationships now?” We may admit it or not, but not being able to physically see people changed us. I noticed it was harder for me to exert an effort into “meeting” people where they are, literally and figuratively. And when I finally took the time to reflect on it, I realized it all stemmed from one thing: selfishness. We are all forced inside our homes for a year now. We had no choice but to find comfort inside ourselves. Personal time has never been more personal. And it was all good for me, until it became too much. The comforts inside became the comfort zone. It became all about me.
It hit me that I was just using the pandemic as an excuse. It felt like love started demanding that it’s time for me to ‘go out’ but all I could ever say was an automatic no. But love is love, it never quits on making demands. And I realized, I should quit on saying no.
One Monday morning, after spending the whole Sunday visiting a friend, I was praying the rosary like I usually do. It was a monday so I was reciting the joyful mysteries and when I came to the second one, it felt like it spoke to me personally. The mystery looked so simple–Mary visits Elizabeth–and yet there was something about it that was so graciously moving in a time of social distancing. It wasn’t just a visit. It was love, making an effort.
- Making the Decision
“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,” (Luke 1:39)
What’s striking about this verse is that it happened right after the angel announced to Mary that she was to bear a child. Let us mind that it is not just any child, she’s bearing the Savior in her womb. If I were her, I would’ve just stayed at home in the comforts of my bed, no one would have complained about it. But Mary made a decision, instead of choosing comfort, she chose to see her cousin whom the Lord has blessed too. I imagine she must have been delighted about it, so much so that she travelled in haste at a time when travelling wasn’t so easy as booking a Grab nowadays. While pregnant, she went through days and miles of journey. All for that desire to share her joy. I suppose, the love she has for her cousin demanded at that time for her to make that decision to go out, and so, she did.
- Blessing the Beloved
“..She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most 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.” (Luke 1:40-45)
Here, I realized why this is a joyful mystery. Elizabeth was so elated that only upon hearing Mary’s arrival, even the infant in her womb leaped! The cousins spent no time to just do small talk or rest after the tiring travel. Elizabeth immediately greeted Mary with one of the most Spirit-filled greetings ever. She greeted with joy and welcomed the love that was shown by Mary. She even felt undeserving of it. I learned from reflecting upon this passage that whenever I let the Spirit move me into making an effort of love, it can cause great joy for another person. At times like these where joy is scarce and love becomes limited, I can be an instrument of God into touching a person’s soul, if only I make that decision. And it wouldn’t even matter whether the receiving end is deserving or not, this event is proof that when love makes an effort, it blesses the beloved.
- Magnifying Love
“And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49)
At this point, grace was just so overflowing between the two that Mary was moved by the Spirit to utter praises to God. Come to think of it, the trigger of the visitation was God’s blessings to the both of them. Elizabeth, who was already old and barren, was blessed with a child. Mary, a mere human, was to become the Mother of God. Both these things only became possible because God blessed them. He was the ultimate cause of both their joys. He was there all along, celebrating with them. Great things happened to them because of love and Love Himself was rightfully glorified through Mary’s magnificat. This led me to a realization that my decision to love others magnifies God. And He has done great things despite the boundaries set by the pandemic. Who am I to not share the love and joy in recognizing His greatness?
Mary showed that relationships are worth the effort. It is worth the hassle and the struggle. It isn’t set by the boundaries outside, but it flourishes by the decisions that the heart makes inside. It faces challenges but it is not something we can just easily cancel. It is where we let love grow and overflow enough to bless others. It is God-given, that is why we do our best to take care of it.
Who is God calling us to visit? To whom are we called to share our joys with? It can be that family member that you see daily but you fail to talk to deeply. It can be that friend who just needs a listening ear. It can be that stranger on social media who needs a random affirmation. It can even be God who knocks at your heart saying, “Come, visit me in prayers.” Presence, in all its essence and beauty, can be felt at this time too. Let us not define this period by social distancing, but let us allow the Spirit to come and bring us together. Just like how Mary said yes, when Love demands a visit, I hope we say yes too.
Jessa Mui is a Mission Volunteer of MFC Youth serving in the area of NCR North