The Blessed Mother Mary–A Radical?
by Fr. Val Handwerker
In the Scriptures for the Third Sunday of Advent, did you catch Mary’s entrance in this Advent?
Oh, you might tell me that Mary wasn’t named in Sunday’s first passage from Isaiah. You are correct. The Apostle Paul doesn’t mention her at all in the passage from his First Letter to the Thessalonians. (In fact, in all of his letters St. Paul never speaks of Mary by name.) And, the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent says nothing at all about Mary.
This halfway point in our Advent, Mary made her entrance loudly and boldly. It’s in the Responsorial Psalm, sung between the first and second readings. We heard her great song sung in St. Luke’s Gospel, beginning with these words: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” In the church’s official prayer—we call it the breviary—every priest, deacon and layperson who prays it—well, we pray Mary’s song every night.
It’s the most Mary says in all the four Gospels—this song. She’s an impoverished servant teenage girl instead of a woman of prominence. Mary rejoices—Did you hear why?
Mary is full of joy because of God’s “wondrous reversals”—always turning upside down everything we take for granted because of the coming, the Advent, of her Son Jesus. Listen to Mary’s song, her “Magnificat,” as it is called in Latin.
The Almighty “has shown the strength of his arm; he 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” (Luke 1:46-55).
Yes, in Mary’s song, the rich and powerful are sent away empty, and God fills the hurting and hungry with good things. In her song, those are “wondrous reversals.”
Dangerous words by someone who sounds like a radical. In fact, in the Catholic Central American country of Guatemala, in the 1980s the repressive government banned any public recitation of Mary’s song.
When Great Britain had rule over India, at one point that government prohibited Mary’s song to be sung. On the final day of British rule, the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi asked that Mary’s song be read wherever the British flag was being lowered.
Mary Song says it clearly: The Almighty “has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.”
On December 12 every year. Mexicans all over the city, the United States, and in Mexico celebrate their most cherished feast—Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since 1531 those of Mexican descent especially identify with Mary. In the image left on Juan Diego’s cape when she miraculously appeared, Mary had dark skin and Indian features. She spoke in the native language of the Indian people then under Spanish domination. Within six years of her apparition, nine million Aztecs were baptized. The Mexican people love this Mary because she still “fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.” She’s still one with them.
There always have been debates of what our priorities should be as a people. Mary makes her entrance this Advent and, as always, the Almighty “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.”
If we really hear Mary’s song, that’s really a radical vision—for our Diocese of Memphis as we begin our 50th Anniversary celebration.