Raising up the lowly

He has cast down the mighty from the thrones
and raised up the lowly.
Luke 1: 52

 If today were not the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel reading would be the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1: 46-56).

Mary visiting Elizabeth sings a song of rejoicing in the hope of a Messiah. She acknowledges a God who looks on the lowly and takes their side.

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the killing of Chico Mendes, a rubber worker who organized other workers and sought to defend the Amazonian rain forest. Cattle ranchers and large land-owners would often burn the forest to have land for their cattle.

For his efforts, Chico was killed by a rancher and his son.

Mary’s son would also die and it appears that the mighty are not cast down from their thrones and the hungry are not filled with good things.

The world does not seem to work as Mary’s canticle proclaims.

But God calls us to have hope, to keep the vision of God’s love and justice in our hearts and in our sight – spurring us on to work for the Reign of God.

The Gospel which will be read in Catholic churches today is the vision of Joseph who is told that his wife’s child is God-with-us, the One who is to come to save God’s people.

As Father Gustavo Gutiérrez puts it:

Joseph is confused and this perplexity prepares him to understand God’s action. When we think that everything is occurring “normally,” we are not capable of perceiving what is new. The unexpected interrupts our plans.

Can we see God’s plan interrupting our lives – calling us to work with God in raising up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things?

In the midst of darkness, light shines. Will we reflect that light – or let ourselves be overwhelmed by the darkness?

After Chico Mendes died, his wife observed:

Chico had a lot of faith. When he died, I was filled with despair. But God comforted me and inspired me to work alongside others to carry on Chico’s work. They killed him, but they didn’t kill his ideals or crush the struggle.

Will we let God inspire us to continue the struggle that Christ may be born in our midst?

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