Today’s Gospel is the beautiful Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of praise, exclaimed during her visit with her cousin Elizabeth.
Pope Francis once called Mary’s song of praise in the Magnificat “the canticle of the People of God on the journey, and of all men and women who hope in God, in the power of his mercy.”
Mary’s life was not very unlike that of women in thousands of villages as they exist today in Asia, Africa and Latin America. People lived under the repressive combined rule of the Romans and Herod. Taxes were high, people could barely eke out a living. Most of their day was spent focusing on what they needed just to survive.
Yet despite the oppressive circumstances in which she lived, Mary proclaims a joyful message in her Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of God.” In the midst of so many terrible things, Mary could say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of God.”
In the Magnificat, Mary sings of the future when peaceful justice will take root in the land among all people. 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 lift up the lowly and set free the oppressed. Confident that God can turn the world upside down; that the last will be first and the first last.
In an Advent 1933 sermon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said this:
The song of Mary is the oldest Advent hymn. It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings; this is the passionate, surrendered, proud, enthusiastic Mary who speaks out here. This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind.
Mary’s Magnificat is a message of hope. The message of hope we need to convey in our world today: The message that God is still at work, even in the midst of all of suffering and difficulties.