The famous Magnificat is the gospel reading today. It is Mary’s proclamation of God’s justice, mercy and goodness. In here she also prophesies that her name shall be called blessed for all ages to come. This specific bible text had several song versions and renditions in so many languages; a very popular text indeed.
Religion proclaims so many good things. Religion preaches about compassion, love, peace, social justice, respect and equality; of caring for the most vulnerable.
However, look at how far from reality these pronouncements have been all throughout the ages. Today we see a greater divide of the rich and the poor. Today we see the exploitation of natural resources beyond what is sustainable. Modern day slavery and exploitation of women in children still exist in many parts of the world, even in our own country. Our daily news speak of war between Israel and Palestine over a small piece of land in that part of the world. We hear a proposed bill that will penalize and put to death any LGBT in Uganda.
I watched an interview of Rappler (click quote below for video) with a progressive and activist nun, Sister Mary John Mananzan who said:
“In all religions, I am not only talking about Christianity… All religions have what you call the liberating and oppressing aspects. The liberating inspires us to do justice and all that to have the virtues… but there are oppressive aspects in it because there are human elements to it.”
I’ve always believed that the problem is not the religion per se. There is no issue on the very basic theologies or doctrines of a particular religion, the problem lies in the people who interpret and make use of religion for power, greed and oppression. People who become legalistic of moral and religious laws, canons, rituals and dogmas that in the process they forget the real heart of any spiritual path which is supposed to uplift the human condition of all people and not just a few.
We dishonor God as individuals and as a community whenever we proclaim God’s infinite goodness, mercy and justice and yet fail ourselves to be the hands and feet of God in the world bringing about justice and equality. We have to talk the walk and walk the talk or simply live what we preach as Christians. We insult Christ when we call ourselves Christians and yet fail to commit ourselves towards caring for the poor, the lost, the broken and the hungry.
Mary of Nazareth, rightfully proclaims the goodness of God because she said YES to carry Jesus in her womb and give birth to him under threat of death (for conceiving a child not from the man she is engaged with). Saying YES to being the mother of the Messiah entailed a huge task. It was not a simple YES. It was a loaded YES. She would have to really care, to nurture and to give her very best for this child who will be the manifestation of God’s love and compassion to the world; A child who will grow up NOT simply to magically take away oppression in his 1st century Jewish-Roman-occupied society, but by whose life and teachings, showed us the WAY and the TRUTH on how to bring about justice and love for all.
In the 7th day of our Christmas reflection, more than the material gifts, parties and overflow of food, may we see beyond them and be able to see the face of God in those less fortunate and marginalized sections of our communities and the society at large. May we be the face of God to them who seek comfort. May we say YES, to our Christian commitment to bring God’s love and justice to all people. May we incorporate in our lives the Jesus’ way and the Jesus truth for in doing so may all us like Mary, with much rejoicing and peace exclaim:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Written by: Joseph Tiu