Reflection for Advent IV: December 23, 2018
This week’s reading is Mary’s Magnificat, a song of praise to the savior God who, in choosing Mary to be the mother of Christ, has “…looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” Mary is beloved in the church for her humility and joyful submission to God’s will. But Mary is also a young woman of courage who strikes out, apparently alone, on a journey (1:39-45). In addition to her humility and courage, Mary is also a mystic. She has an abiding inner sense of the meaning of her pregnancy. She knows it means that God has alreadyaccomplished something that will turn the world upside down:
“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
We used this reading in our Advent candle liturgy last Sunday. Appropriately, a young woman did the reading. She was also one who played one of the main parts in a play that Monica wrote for our youth event this week. The play was about two smart young women who make different choices in life. One gets pregnant early and has an abusive, irresponsible partner. By age 24, she has 4 kids and a life of domestic violence and poverty. The other woman has a supportive, loving partner who wants her to go to school and fulfill her dream to be a doctor. But this young woman’s mother thinks school is a waste of time. She wants her to get married and start having children. “Jenny” takes a risk though. She denies her mother and stays with her supportive partner while avoiding pregnancy. In the end she makes it through medical school and has a successful life as a doctor.
I think it’s fair to say that the youth who did the play had a transformative experience with it. Monica gave them the basic script but they wrote their own lines based on their experience of what home life and social expectations are like in Timor-Leste. The play itself was a huge hit with everyone who saw it. Afterwards we divided into groups and discussed things like domestic violence, teen pregnancy and, well, how to choose a decent husband! Not surprisingly the youth had insightful responses, questions and more than a few good laughs while discussing things that are usually taboo.
Mary’s poem, it seems to me, is a signpost for the Timorese youth of today. They are torn between worlds, have few opportunities and feel ignored by their government. But Mary’s poem offers the assurance of God’s providential care and preferential option for those who, in the eyes of society, are lowly, humble and ignored. The poem assures them that God’s mercy is an available source of strength with the power to overturn the status quo and create newness in ways we can’t comprehend or anticipate. And that is good news for Timor’s youth, as it is for all of us who live in hope for the in-breaking of God’s promised future.