Luke 1:46-56

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. Luke 1:46-56

Mary’s song has been a bedrock of the spirituality of millions of people for over 2000 years. Her words are remembered in liturgy, art, song, and personal prayer.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

These words are a comforting balm for those who regularly pray the Rosary (whether or not they care about the promised “indulgences” such prayers receive. Yes, that word is still in there.) But they are a mystery (in the basic meaning of that word) to millions of Protestants who remain both ignorant and suspicious of the role of Mary in Roman Catholic piety.

Strange, isn’t it, that such a pivotal moment in Christian history, that such a central character in the drama of the Christian story, still, to this day, causes tension and division? But that is the humanity of it all. We all live in the tension between the now and the not yet.

Mary’s prayer lives in that tension. She speaks of a radical reversal, an upside-down view of life. She speaks as if “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” has already happened. Really?

In many ways, yes, really. The world has changed remarkably in many ways over the past 200 years. There is less global poverty and hunger today. There are institutional means for helping to sustain the lives of the poor today that never existed before. There have been, and continue to be, seismic shifts in the balance of international political power.

Some of that has come about because of increased international cooperation as manufacturing and supply lines have shifted. Some of that has come about because of the implicit values of bringing help and hope to the helpless and hopeless. All of this requires intentionality. But we clearly have a long way to go, striving toward a destination we might never each, but striving still.

Or, we could just descend into the darkness of a dog eats dog world where the rich get richer, the poor better pull themselves up by the bootstraps they don’t have, as we while away the hours in our ivory towers, fawning over the rich, the famous, and the powerful, always putting ourselves first and then justifying all of this as a good thing.

The good news of the Christian faith, as Mary sings, and as the author will write throughout, is good news to the poor or it isn’t good news at all.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, Mary’s prayer humbles us and challenges us. May we exalt you and may our lives magnify you, as we, like Mary, take upon ourselves the daily tasks of living for you by loving our neighbors. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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