December 22, 2008

Magnifying the Lord

            Within Luke’s Gospel are two radical statements of what God intends in the messianic age, when the Spirit is poured out in power. Luke 4 offers Jesus’ sermon at the hometown synagogue; this week’s Gospel reading is the Magnificat voiced by Mary. A thick similarity of themes holds these texts together as they illumine what the coming one is sent to accomplish. Scattering the proud; bringing down the powerful; filling the hungry with good things; sending the rich away empty; setting the captives free; these are actions that only God can achieve.

            Mary stands in need of this divine assistance herself.  She is humble, poor, oppressed, and most likely hungry. Yet, she has the power of consent.  St. Augustine wrote: “Christ will not save us without our consent.”  Mary’s “yes” is the most powerful consent ever offered, and she as theotokos (God-bearer), becomes integral to God’s salvation through Christ. She is the exemplary first disciple because she believes that God’s request of her is blessing, not burden. The overshadowing of the Spirit evokes the creaturely “yes” that we might become God’s partners in putting the world right. We are all called to be “God-bearers,” persons through whom the Word can be made flesh in our concrete historical context, for the good of others and, yes, for our good, too.

            When the Spirit of God overshadows, the improbable, indeed the seemingly impossible, occurs.  Dry bones become a renewed people in a flourishing land, a virginal rose blooms with child, and a young man of questionable background is commissioned to the vocation of messiah. God is magnified through humanity’s consent.


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