The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1)
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:53)
I never really loved Mary.
I know that’s a horrible thing to admit, especially growing up Catholic. And I liked Mary just fine: she seemed like a nice mother and an awfully brave girl to have done the things she did.
But I never loved her.
To me, Mary was unattainable perfection. Virgin yet mother, sinless yet human – it didn’t make much sense to me. Mary popped up a few times a year – the Christmas crèche, the May crowning – but most of the time she didn’t cross my mind.
Until a wise woman I met in grad school told me that during the darkest moments in her life, the times when she could barely pray at all, she could always pray the Magnificat. Because Mary’s hymn of praise to God was a prayer of a strong and brave woman: a mother of faith and a prophet of God’s justice.
I never read the Magnificat the same way again. And I came to see Mary in a whole new light. She became a woman of justice. She became a champion of the poor. She became the kind of strong, passionate mother I hoped I’d be.
Mary’s words that echo Isaiah’s truths remind me that she must have been the first to teach Jesus about God’s justice. That God raised up the lowly and cast down the powerful. That God fed the hungry and sent away the wealthy. That God would turn the world’s order upside down to care for the poorest and weakest.
Mary’s mothering in the light of justice reminds me that I have to teach my children what it means to love a God who loves the poor. What it means to feed the hungry. What it means to heal the brokenhearted in a broken world.
Her strength and faith remind me that from the humblest of circumstances and quietest of voices can come the conviction that changes the course of human history.
And in an Advent pregnant with God’s promise, in a world crying out for justice, in a home with two boys who need strong models of faith, I love Mary for that.