Today we celebrated St Mary and her willingness to participate in God’s design. We celebrated the woman who was strong, determined and sang a song that would proclaim that something really needed to change. It would no longer do for the oppressor to go n unhindered. It would no longer do for the hungry to go unfed. It would no longer do to see the arrogant and proud run amok over the vulnerable and the weak.
Mary’s message is profound. Part of what I shared in church today was inspired by Father James Martin. Here is what he wrote about Mary and her song of praise —
We’ve heard Mary’s “Magnificat” so often that I think we may have forgotten its subversive, revolutionary, dangerous power. Her song of praise (“Magnificat” is the first word of the lines in Latin: “My soul magnifies the Lord…”) is stunning in its implications.
“[God] has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.”
Got that? The proud, or in another translation of the Greek, the “arrogant in their attitudes of themselves” are scattered, as if they were enemies on the run. Those who feel superior to everyone, those who dominate, those who oppress, are in for a big surprise.
More, says Mary: the mighty are “cast down,” or “pulled down” from their thrones, an almost physical tearing away of power by God. And those who are humble are exalted.
And then the most shocking turnabout of all: the hungry, the poor, the beggars, the marginalized, are filled. And not just filled–but filled with “good things” (Greek: agathon) While the rich ones God sends away empty (kenous).
Social justice? Preferential option for the poor? Income redistribution? Yes, yes and yes. And much more than that. An utter reversal of social expectations, a dramatic reordering of society, an ushering in of a new worldview, which comes about with what Luke calls the “rise and fall of many” in his Gospel. This is God’s vision, and for those who are tempted to think that the current status quo–where the wealthy oppress the poor, where so many go hungry, and where millions are homeless–think again. If you doubt this vision of the reign of God, don’t listen to me: Listen to Mary.
We tend to think of Mary as a docile woman. And indeed she was docile to God, but had the courage to ask a question of the Angel Gabriel and to assent to God’s request without needing to ask any men in her life–her father or her betrothed. This is an independent and strong woman who speaks of God’s complete reversal of what we have come to think of as “normal.”
And if you think Mary’s vision for the world is subversive, wait till you meet her son.
This message may be too much for some. But it is the message of the gospel. As Martin points out the message does not soften when Jesus arrives on the scene. Mary declared that what she was carrying within her was not just a child, but the very nature of change itself – radical change at that. What about you and me? What are we birthing into the worlds in which we live. Are we as ready to bring into being the kind of change Mary sang about and Father Martin emphasized in the piece above?