The Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Sunday August 15, 2021 by Sergio Rodriguez, Candidate for Ordination
“His mercy is for those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mary’s hope-laden song proclaimed God’s favor on the lowly and tender mercy to his people. Mary began to comprehend God’s salvation as coming not in the likeness of Rome but in the image of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes. This lowly child helps us all, through faith, to remember and trust in God’s world-transforming mercy. We tend not to associate the lowliness of the Holy Family with the grandeur of the Magnificat. Usually, the image evoked here of Mary, is of the Virgin, tender and mild. She is the model of virtue, purity, and chastity. At my parents place, we seldom considered the Magnificat as the basis for an image of Mary. Our Lady of Lourdes, with her beautiful flowing white dress and tender gaze formed a part of our piety. A part of our misconception of the God who was born of a poor, lowly woman. Oddly enough, there is a phrase in the Beatles’ repertoire that best captures Mary’s hope-laden song as a song of the lowly and the broken-hearted, “And when the broken-hearted people, living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.” When Mary moved in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she, broken-hearted by the world’s sin and oppression, yearned for an answer.
She needed an answer to her own quandary, “How will this be so since I am a virgin?” How will this be so that I, someone who has been crushed by the oppressors’ rod, will give birth the son of David? How can my womb signal the birth of God’s new and everlasting reign of mercy? May your word to me be fulfilled. May your favor shine upon the lowliness of your servant. Mary’s words name out loud our own desire a way out of our the broken-ness of this world. We yearn for tender mercy to swaddle us with favor upon our lowliness and brokenness. Archbishop Oscar Romero names the depth of human need in Latin America as our yearning for God’s favor on the lowliness of our human condition. He says, “the church in Latin America shows us much about the state of humanity…faces of the elderly, outcasts, slum dwellers, poor children from infancy begin to feel the cruel sting of social injustice. For them, it seems, there is no future…” and I would add on, “those in grief, those whose family members are in hospital due to COVID, those experiencing transition, those in spiritual poverty and want.” All of us together yearn for God to look upon us with favor and give us the peace that restores our daily lives to some semblance of dignity and meaning. We want to join Mary in singing that God’s mercy is for those who fear him (those who recognize God as God), from age to age, this truth is the same.
When Mary arrived in hope-laden haste to visit Elizabeth, she met with a gracious
surprise. The child in Elizabeth’s woman leap with joy. A joy that knows intuitively the answer before the question is even asked: Are you pregnant Mary? Elizabeth proclaimed the fulfillment of the long-expected anointed one when she said, “and why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” Elizabeth herself recognized the incongruity of the moment. Her cousin, a poor woman on the fringe of society, of the line of David but not of the same socio-economic status like he, carries within her the Lord, the Savior of the world. The one who made the heavens and the earth is to be wrapped in swaddling clothes. His mother came to her looking for an answer to her own faith-stirring
discernment. How can this be that hope springs forth precisely when we have been made low? When we have experienced great loss of financial security, or spiritual certitude or hope for a better tomorrow? Elizabeth words blessed Mary and continues to bless us this day, “blessed are you who believe that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” God has looked upon us with favor. His mercy is for us who fear him. Who recognize the image of God in the lowliness of the cradle, in the lowliness of his servants. Again, the good Bishop said it best, “We must not see the child Jesus in the pretty figurines. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed tonight with nothing to eat.” I have seen this child amongst the immigrant children I served on the border and in San Antonio. No better arrangement of Mary’s Song than to see God filling the hungry with good things, lifting up the lowly and looking with favor upon the vulnerable of society.
We can see why Mary so magnifies the Lord and rejoices in God. The hope beyond all-hope for a savior will come to fruition through the fruit of her womb, Jesus. Mary acknowledges this profound mystery of faith when she exclaims, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” We misunderstand Mary’s intention when we perceive in these words some form of mediation of graces. Mary knows deep within herself, beyond all comprehension or empirical data, “Within me, a child shall be born and the world will never be the same.” The world that has been led by Might makes right or Greet is Good, is giving way to the mysterious God. The God hidden behind the faces of the poor, the lowly, the suffering, the crucified. God hidden behind you and behind me. Only if allow ourselves to gaze into the faces of our neighbors as the very image of God, can we comprehend that God’s mercy moves us to remember. To remember that we are all sibings and kin to each other through faith. Faith in the God who swaddles us in our lowliness and hunger. The last of our community shall be the first and the first shall serve the last and in so doing, allow for us to let God be, God. Let us wake up to the sound of music, hearing the wisdom of Mother Mary, “For he has looked with favor upon the lowliness of you, his servants. Surely from now on all generations will call us blessed.” Amen.