And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
There are so many statues of Mary the mother of Jesus in the world! In all of them (except the ones where her expression is full of sorrow) her face is soft, gentle, calm, and sweet-natured. How else would we imagine a young maiden of such purity of heart that to her out of all humanity was entrusted the baby Jesus? But though the gentleness is beautiful, it doesn’t quite sit right with the Magnificat, the Song of Mary – which is highly political, gutsy, and revolutionary. If this is what she sang, Mary was more of a red-hot-radical than a blushing violet.
Near the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus preached at Nazareth (Luke 4:14–22) on the passage in Isaiah about the Lord’s year of Jubilee, when the captives will go free and the sick be healed. “Today”, he said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus was the Son of God, sure enough, but never was he more his mother’s son than in that moment. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of human rights.”
When Mary sang her Magnificat, we should imagine not the soulful piping of a docile schoolgirl, but Malvina Reynolds, Joan Baez, and Buffy Sainte-Marie all rolled into one. “My soooooul doth magnify the Lord!!!” Alleluia! All right!!
O God of love, our imagination recoils from how hard it must have been for Mary to stand at the foot of the cross, and see Jesus crucified. Most of us would have found it unbearable, would have run away. May we be the kind of brave that Mary was – with the courage to stay with the ones we love and never abandon them, to accept disgrace and humiliation in the service of your calling, to hold bright the vision for a better world, to choose the way of miracles and amazing grace rather than shelter in what feels safe because it is normal. May we like Mary consent to receive the living Jesus, so that the grace of his salvation may be evident in our lives from day to day. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.