The Promise He Made to Our Fathers

There is a Leonard Cohen song titled Everybody Knows, that paints a bleak picture of human existence and human relationship. Everybody knows, we are told, that the dice are loaded, that the deck is stacked, that the fight is fixed, that the good guys lost, that the war is over, that the rich stay rich, etc. “That’s [just] how it goes. Everybody knows.” That’s just the way it is. The song is one of defeat, of hopelessness.

We hear a diametrically opposite song in today’s Gospel – Mary’s Magnificat. In the Magnificat, Mary sings of the future when peaceful justice will take root in the land among all people.

Mary isn’t blind to the suffering and injustice of the world in which she lived. She saw the way things were. But she knew that the ways things were was not the way things had to be, was not the way they would always be. Mary was confident in God. Confident that God is still at work, even in the midst of all of the difficulties. Confident that God would fulfill the “promise he made to our fathers,” that God would lift up the lowly and set free the oppressed.

Mary’s Magnificat is a rousing message of hope. And that message is one the world needs, because it is so easy to fall into the defeat and hopelessness expressed in the Cohen song (which I sometimes refer to as the anti-Magnificat). The message that God is still at work, even in the midst of all of the suffering, is one we ourselves need to believe. And it is the message that we, as Christians, need to convey to the world.