Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor....
Midway between the feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) we celebrate the Virgin's visit to her older cousin Elizabeth. The Church offers for our reflection Romans 12:9-16, a series of short aphorisms.
The passage reminds me of a popular title of several years ago; it was something like, "Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten."
Life is complicated and mysterious and I -- for reasons only God knows -- feel compelled to examine its challenges continually.
But daily life among people -- whether in a family, office or neighborhood -- requires mostly simple practices like attention, affection and honoring one another. These are not terribly difficult.
Sometimes I should apologize and I sure don't want to, but then I notice how easily and often people apologize to me. I'm walking through a hospital corridor and, coming round the corner, I meet a woman who says, 'Excuse me." It's not hard. She didn't owe it to me; I didn't really need it; but it's one of those little courtesies that, like WD-40, make life easier for everyone.
We don't suppose that Mary had to go to Jerusalem to see her cousin but we're sure she was compelled by natural affection and divine curiosity. She cared for the old lady; she had to see the sign of which the Angel had spoken. Arriving there this young woman applied herself as housekeeper, cook, nurse and confidant -- in all the ways that mothers, daughters, sisters and cousins have done for centuries. Nothing could be more natural.
The Way which the Lord has revealed to us is nothing new, and yet it is always refreshing; or, in Saint Augustine's phrase, it is "ever ancient, ever new." To be Christian or Catholic is to do what comes naturally; to do what anyone would do who knows her own human nature.
"Grace builds on nature!" the Church teaches; meaning grace doesn't violate, overturn or overhaul nature. It illuminates our nature like a candle in a pumpkin, or the sunrise on a landscape. We're beautiful to begin with, and ready to do beautiful things; we need only the impulse of the Holy Spirit to move us.