Blogger’s Note: This past Sunday I was blessed to offer a brief morning scripture reflection at Camp Lebanon 2015, the summer outing parish families have undertaken for the past several years. This is a write-up of roughly what I think I said.
Since yesterday was the Solemnity of the Assumption, I want to focus on a small portion of that gospel reading. The passage is called the Canticle of Mary, her song of joy to God. I want to share this because this is something I often struggle with: being a joy-filled Christian. I get caught up in all the problems of this world — the persecution of Christians around the world, the whole abortion scandal in the news right now, the decline of our culture, the upcoming election — and I become a very somber Christian. I get wrapped around the axle about all these things that I can’t do anything about (except pray), and I lose the joy of our Blessed Mother.
So this is the Canticle of Mary, from Luke, chapter 1, verses 46-55:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.
That’s certainly a joyful reading. My question for you is this: at this point in the gospel, what does Mary have to be joyful about? Why is she so happy?
She is still a teenage Jewish girl, still poor, still living under Roman authority. Now she’s pregnant and unmarried — a serious problem in the culture of the time. She’s engaged to marry a man she likely doesn’t know very well, provided he doesn’t choose to report her to the authorities and have her stoned.
Why is she so joyful?
Mary is joyful because she has tremendous hope in God. She believes the message of the Angel Gabriel that God has a plan to deliver his people, and by her yes, she embraces that plan.
Hope is the virtue that enables us to trust that God will provide the means of our salvation — to believe that He will take care of us, and that everything is under control. Hope is a virtue I struggle with. I have faith on some level — I believe in the truth of sacred scripture and the teachings of the Church, and I try to follow them. I have at least some charity — I could definitely use more of this virtue, but I’m working on it. But I struggle with hope, as evidenced by all the anxieties I have about this world. I struggle with trusting that God will save us — that He already has saved us!
Last weekend my oldest son and I were blessed to make a silent retreat at Demontreville. It was a great three days of silence, listening to spiritual talks and readings, praying, and refocusing on God. In my room was a little yellow book of daily reflections, and one evening I picked it up and began flipping through it. One reflection, in particular, caught my attention and has stuck with me ever since. It went something like this…
What if Jesus appeared to you today and said, “Guess what? You’re in. You get to spend eternity with me in heaven.” Would you be happy?
Would you? Of course you would!
What if Jesus said, “You did it! You’re in — you’ll be with me in heaven. You’re going to have to live another 30, 40, 50 years here on earth, but you’re in. Guaranteed.”
Would you be happy? Of course!
What if Jesus said, “You’re in! You’re going to live another 30, 40, 50 years here on earth, and I’ve got some work for you to do, but no worries. You’re in.”
Would you be happy? Sure you would! You’d say, “Give me the list, Lord — I’m on it. No problem!”
What if He said, “You’re in. I’ve got some work for you to do, so you’re going to be here awhile yet, and you are going to suffer for me, but when all that is over, you will be with me in Heaven.”
Would you be happy?
Yes — because you know you’re going to be with Him.
Guess what? That’s exactly what He says to us.
All we need to do is spend the time we have here on earth, doing what He asked us to do, and we’re in. It’s that easy — well, it’s not easy, but it’s that simple.
May we cultivate a sense of hope in the fact that Jesus has already saved us, so that we can say joyfully with our Blessed Mother, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”