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.
Luke 1: 52-53
Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat, has been set to music by many, including Johann Sebastian Bach. But its words are a great challenge to the powerful and rich of this world and have been lived by many, often to the point of martyrdom.
Mary proclaims the greatness of the Kingdom of God and describes what it entails:
food for the hungry, the exaltation of the lowly.
But many who have struggled for this Kingdom has lost their lives in the process.
On December 22, 1988, Chico Mendez, rubber-tapper, advocate of the environment, was killed in Brazil. This martyr for the environment once said:
“If a messenger from heaven would guarantee that my death would strengthen our struggle, it might be worthwhile. But experience teaches us the opposite; so, I want to live.”
On December 22, 1997, in the chapel in Acteal, municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, Mexico, 45 civilians were murdered. They were members of Socieded Civil Las Abejas (The Bees Civil Society), a nonviolent community involved in the struggle for justice for the indigenous in one of the poorest areas of Mexico.
A survivor of the massacre said:
“. . . we do not have arms to defend ourselves. . . .But we decided to trust in God and we began to pray in the church. Now we know that they are martyrs. We know that God received the 45 and that God is preparing to receive us also. Because the struggle continues. We are not afraid to die. We are ready to die, but not to kill. If God permits us some more days here, all right. If not, that is all right also.”
It appears from these and other cases that the lowly are not being lifted up, that the rich are grabbing more and more. But in the plan of God there is a hope for something different as well as a call for God’s people to struggle for a world where the lowly are lifted up, honored, and have what they need.
Will we live the Magnificat – or just “pray” it?