Thursday, December 06, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Today's text

And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love (Luke 1:46-54).


We romanticize the scene. The angel Gabriel and Mary greet each other with a gentle bow, and he tells her not to fear. “The Lord is with you,” he says. “You have found favor with God and will bear a child, the Son of the Most High.”

But Mary lived in a land of fear, when the hopes and fears of all the years had met in battle, and fear won.

Near the time of Jesus birth, uprisings sprouted across the land as would-be messiahs revolted, trying to rid the nation of the Romans with their oppressive taxes and overbearing military.

One rabble rouser gained a large following at Sepphoris, about an hour’s walk from Nazareth, Mary’s town. The Romans sent more than 20,000 troops to pillage, rape and burn the town, reducing survivors to slavery.

One can only guess how bad it was for nearby villages like Nazareth. Mary surely heard the stories about the day the Romans came and knew those who escaped with their lives and perhaps those who never came home.

She had seen fear, and knew Rome’s brutality. The promise that she would bear a new messiah certainly awaken fear of further imperial cruelty. Knowing this, her song of praise to God takes on visceral meaning.

She sees God trampling the oppressors underfoot so that the wounded poor who walk the dusty streets of Nazareth might taste justice and be filled with blessing.

She dares to trust, believing with all her might in the God who remembers and keeps his promise to show mercy to the lowly ones, like her.

Lifting her arms, she shouts praise to the listening skies. Shaking her fist at Rome and any others who would dare crush her hope in God’s promise, she cries out, “My soul proclaims the greatest of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

She is one of the lowly ones, but in her praise and defiant trust she stands unbowed, strong as the love of the God who cannot forget her … or us.

Come, Lord Jesus, stir our hearts to defiant hope in your mercy and justice that we may live strong as your love. 

For prayer and reflection

  • Does today’s reflection change your image of Mary?
  • What fears, or situations trouble you, stealing your hope to know God’s mercy and presence?
  • Slowly read Mary song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). What does she say to you?
  • Does praising God make you strong?

Another voice

My soul proclaims your greatness, Lord; I sing my Savior’s praise! You looked upon my lowliness, and I am full of grace. To all who live in holy fear, your mercy ever flows. With mighty arm you dash the proud, their scheming heart expose.
(“My Soul Proclaims Your Greatness,” Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1995)

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