Blessed Mother’s “Rights”

If you heard the gospel reading at Mass yesterday, it sounded an awful lot like Sunday. So we have waited two days to hear what happened next. What happened after St. Elizabeth praised our Lady’s humble faith, after Elizabeth invented the Hail Mary, after St. John the fetus leapt in the womb when Christ the embryo entered the house.

MagnificatWell, Blessed Mother finally had an opportunity to speak. So she sang of the Lord’s promises to Abraham, who had been willing to sacrifice his son. She sang of justice, arriving as mercy.

First Christmas after ordination, I gave a pro-life homily on Christmas Eve, in upper-middle-class suburban Washington. Not everyone liked it. But I still think: We face a decisive either/or here, precisely at Christmas.

Our contemporary standards would lead us to ask: What about our Lady’s autonomy? Did she get a fair deal? She woke up one day, basically minding her own business. Next thing you know, she’s eating for two. But her Magnificat reveals that the idea of “autonomy” never so much as entered her beautiful mind.

Christmas teaches us that there actually is no such thing as autonomy–not really; not in the final analysis. No one ever came into this world on his or her own steam. So, to unite Himself with us, God Himself made Himself as vulnerable as you or me or Barack Obama or Alexander the Great were during our sojourns in the womb. That is: utterly dependent. And very demanding: Doesn’t seem like our Lady had to spend the first trimester vomiting. But plenty of expectant mothers do. And why? Because babies in the womb unwittingly make unreasonable and excessive demands.

But the Divine Mercy, originally revealed in a pregnancy, transcends any and all “rights” to self-determination that any of us could claim. Did Mary have a right to the carefree existence she had before the angel came? Her Magnificat bulldozes over such a question. Bulldozes over it with a song about God.

God is in charge, and He has made us dependent on each other, and on Him. Our Lady sings: God has mercy on those who fear Him, on the lowly and the hungry, on the people who wouldn’t know what to do with a team of lawyers, even if they could afford one.

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