|Detail of World War I Memorial in Kansas City|
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:47This verse is the final one of today's gospel reading celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most important Marian feast for Latinos. It is celebrated at this time of the year as part of the Advent preparation for the celebration of the Incarnation at Christmas. These words are spoken by Mary when she visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant in her old age with a male child who will become John the Baptist, the Precursor.
Scholars generally agree that this likely not the words of Mary but rather an early Jewish Christian hymn. Luke found it fitting to use it in this context. Thus is expresses not just the thoughts of Mary but the faith of the earliest Christian community. It basically announces the reign of the Divine One established by the Messiah. As such, it makes clear that this reign is not the establishment of an earthly kingdom as might have been expected by the Jews. When the prophets spoke and wrote about the coming of the coming of the Messiah, it was temptingly easy to hear it as a re-establishment of the kingdom centered Jerusalem, a re-establishment of what had been even though there wee clear indications that a different kind of kingdom was projected.
This hymn makes that abundantly clear in the later verses of what has become known as "The Magnificat" using the Latin for the opening words. Consider these verses.
His mercy is from age to ageto those who fear him.He has shown might with his arm,dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.He has thrown down the rulers from their thronesbut lifted up the lowly.The hungry he has filled with good things;the rich he has sent away empty. Luke 1:51-53Clearly this is a different kingdom. It is a topsyturvy kingdom where those at the top in human terms find themselves at the bottom. Where those who have everything find themselves on the outside looking in.
As comforting at the opening verses are then and now, the later verses ask us to decide where we stand. Are we--am I--with the powers that be in the kingdom of the flesh or am I with those who see a different reality filled with grace and life? As Jesus said on many occasions, I can't have it both ways. I can't hedge my bets.