God is the true center of existence

By Fr. Jack Treloar, SJ | For The Compass | August 11, 2021

In the “Magnificat,” Mary proclaims, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Lk 1:49). Only recently had she been invited to be the mother of the Savior and accepted the invitation. Her prayer speaks of her situation and spells out the significance of her assent for all human beings. One learns from her words that God’s project of redemption turns the wisdom of this world completely upside down. Mary’s prayer summarizes for human beings a better way of living than that offered by the culture of the world.

“He has scattered the proud in their conceit.” “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” “He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). Notice how these verses of Mary’s prayer expand on the brief thought of the first beatitude in the Gospel according to Matthew, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The redeemer will put the world’s value system on notice that God rejects pride, power and wealth as ultimate belief, because they diminish human life and are akin to idolatry.

The pride Mary rejects is an attitude that makes the individual the center of the universe and all other things and people simply sources for personal gratification and satisfaction. As creatures, we can never forget that God is the true center of existence; anything else, such as pride, taking the place of God functions as idolatry.

Like pride, civil power exercised simply for the ruler’s own benefit corrupts not only the rulers themselves, but also the people. Looking at the history of world governments, one discovers that rulers who worked to enhance the standing of the people are successful. Rulers who exercised power for their own benefit often lost power through tragedy and corruption and in some cases even destroyed the nation itself.

Finally, God passes judgment on excessive wealth as a means of self-valuation. Mary says they will be sent away empty. The problem is not with the wealth itself, for wealth can be used to help others. The issue is accumulation of wealth simply to have more and more. Accumulating wealth for its own sake becomes an end in itself. Mary’s prayer foretells that this kind of wealth will not endure, and the rich will be sent away empty.

This brief exposition of some central verses in the “Magnificat” helps us understand the radical nature of the redemption. Once Mary said “yes,” the values of the world were rejected, and it no longer would be business as usual.

Jesus comes into the world to establish the reign of the one true God and free us from our worship of false gods. The mother of the redeemer, who lived these ideals perfectly, lived out God’s plan to the point of being assumed into heaven at her death.

Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House, Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.

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