They tell me that there are countries in South and Central America where praying the words of Mary’s Magnificat (the words Mary speaks to Elizabeth in the Gospel for the Feast of the Assumption) was prohibited by law. When I first heard this I was surprised. Who would make such a law, especially in a “Christian” country? The answer, it seems, is anyone who would be threatened by words like “He … has scattered the proud in their conceit … cast down the mighty from their thrones” and “lifted up the lowly … filled the hungry … and the rich he has sent away empty.” Good news for the poor but not so good if you happen to be rich.
Suppose someone came into your office or shop and said that those who were being paid the lowest salaries would be receiving a bonus so large that they would be able to buy steaks for dinner and new winter coats for everyone in their family? And then, what if they said that those who were making the highest salaries would suddenly find that their money was no good? If you happened to be among the poor living in a Third World country this would probably come as pretty good news. But what if you were among the rich?
Bring it closer to home. What if you were a day laborer hired to pick cucumbers or wash dishes in a fancy restaurant and someone told you that from now on you would be paid enough money to not only support your family but also send your children to college? What if you were the president of the company that processed the vegetables? Or the owner of the fancy restaurant?
Mary was an unmarried, pregnant teenager. Later she would know what it meant to leave her homeland, afraid for her life and that of her child. She would see her son convicted of crimes he did not commit and unjustly sentenced to death. Mary was not unlike many people living today in Third World countries or even in our own. What would happen if the Magnificat was proclaimed on the evening news? How would we react to Mary’s words?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.