The Lord has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away. (Luke 1:51-53)
Annie Dillard: “Many times in Christian churches I have heard the pastor say to God, ‘All your actions show your wisdom and love.’ Each time, I reach in vain for the courage to rise and shout, ‘that’s a lie!’ – just to put things on a solid footing.
“‘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!’ . . . (Yes, but) I have seen the rich sit secure on their thrones and send the hungry away empty.
“If God’s escape clause is that he gives only spiritual things, then we might hope that the poor and suffering are rich in spiritual gifts, as some certainly are, but as some of the comfortable are too. In a soup kitchen, I see suffering. Deus otiosus: do-nothing God, who, if he has power, abuses it” (For the Time Being, pp. 85-86).
Are our Lady’s words in the Magnificat true?
Let’s give Annie Dillard her due: She is a smart, earnest, good essayist. She is a better person than I am. Her question is an honest one.
Can the words of the gospel be true if the poor and innocent still groan under injustice and cruelty, if bad things happen to good people, if the evil prosper? The Magnificat is about the triumph of justice and goodness, about the almighty power of God, Who loves the weak. Mary sings: With the coming of Christ, the weak and downtrodden have triumphed. Is it true?
Last year at the beginning of Advent, our Holy Father wrote us a letter on Christian hope.
One of the Pope’s chief concerns in the letter is the “privatization” of Christian hope for salvation. Each of us hopes to get to heaven, certainly. But a Christian hopes for more than just his own individual bliss. A Christian hopes for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Pope Benedict identifies the fundamental problem: The modern idea that religion is subjective. If religion is not about objective realities, but just about my own “relationship with God” or “experience” of God, then all I can hope for is my own personal peace.
Religion is not fundamentally subjective. Religion puts us in touch with the most objective reality of them all: the all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful God.
Christ has revealed this: Justice will be done. Truth will win. All that is hidden will be revealed.
We fear the Final Judgment, because we know we will have to rely on God’s mercy. At the same time, we hope for the Second Coming. The Magnificat WILL be completely fulfilled. In the meantime, our best bet is to try to do our little part to make the world better, and to bear the injustices of the world with patient perseverance.
Here is how the Pope puts it:
Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgement is first and foremost hope—the need for which was made abundantly clear in the upheavals of recent centuries. I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ’s return and for new life become fully convincing. (Spe Salvi, 43)