Monday, August 15, 2011

A Spirit of Rejoicing

Today in the Catholic Church is the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary (that is, Mary being taken soul and body into Heaven). Now whether you're Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, aetheist, or "dunno" there's something beautiful to be learnt from today's Gospel reading:

Joy!

(Again, if this is not your faith - read on! Look at it as fantastical history, if you must.)

So, in today's Gospel, the Virgin Mary, having just said "Yes" to the angel who asked if she'd bear the Messiah, goes out "in haste" to her cousin Elizabeth who, although waaaay past menopause, is pregnant with John the Baptist. What are Mary's first words to Elizabeth?

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name."


We're accustomed to all these events happening together. We read them in our minds in a funereal way that takes all the life out of them. But think about it all from Mary's point of view:

  • Mary, a Jewess, agrees to carry the Messiah
  • She becomes pregnant, although she has not known man
  • In so doing, she's risking everything: her parents' trust, her fiance Joseph, the approval of her society - to carry the Christ she willingly risks exile from all who know her and all she's known.
  • In fact we learn that when Joseph finds out, although by law he should have had Mary stoned, he plans to "divorce" (break off the engagement) Mary quietly - until he, too, is visited by an angel
  • Think, though, what heartbreak and confusion Mary's parents would have felt - and how would Mary tell them?
  • Think, too, of Joseph and his shock and apparent heartbreak
  • And think that Mary, who by the grace of God was sinless (remember, I'm Catholic!), would by this grace-filled action be thought of as a whore; she who was sinless by God, would be thought sinful by man

    In such circumstances, I'd be tempted to throw myself a pity-party and constantly bug God with "Why me?!??!!?" Even while giving Him lip-service about trusting in His word.

    Not Mary.

    Mary rejoices. Mary proclaims. Mary praises God for His mercy and favor!

    And what favor! St. Theresa of Avila (one of my favorite saints) once got thrown in the mud while she was trekking from one convent to another to bring them back to the faith. Muddy, wet, humiliated, probably aching all over, she complained to God: "Why did you let this happen? I was doing Your work!"

    He replied: "Theresa, this is how I treat all my friends."

    She, wonderful woman, replied, "Well then, no wonder You've got so few!"

    We've all got troubles. Finances, jobs, parents, children, just general doubts and confusions. Personally, I tend to be worse than St. Theresa with such minor things as a little mud. But I hope I can be more like Mary - who suffered along with her Son through His trials - and still "proclaimed the greatness of the Lord" and REJOICED!
  • 2 comments:

    1. When my kids were growing up there was a young woman in our church who is about a year older than my eldest son. She is a little tiny thing, but has a wonderful, rich singing voice and she sang the Magnificat several years on Easter- brought me to tears. She and my son sang together a few times, but he never liked to sing with her because she was so much better than he is (actually they sounded very good together and he has a good voice). Unfortunately for us (but not for her), she is now in medical school, as is my son, so we don't get to hear much of either of them.

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    2. I love the Magnificat - and how beautiful that you got to hear them sing together even a little!

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