The Promised MessiahDan Doyle
“He has cast the mighty from their thrones, and raises up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). This is one of the statements that appears in what is known as the Canticle of Mary at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. She sings this powerful and beautiful prayer after she is greeted by her cousin, Elizabeth, when they are both pregnant, Elizabeth with John the Baptist, and Mary with Jesus, the promised Messiah.
At the beginning of this holiest week of the Christian calendar, it is appropriate to harken back to the coming of Jesus into the world as a human infant. Mary’s affirmative response to the Father’s invitation given to her by the Angel Gabriel, opened the door long locked door to salvation history. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, took flesh in Mary’s womb. And it is during this Holy Week that we remember and witness again, the culmination of Jesus’ mission, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. All of this done out of a Divine Love so great that it overwhelms all the heavy weight of sin and death, forever.
No other human being could understood the meaning of this conception more than Mary. She knows who this child is. She becomes, in a sense, the first prophet of the New Testament when she sings her canticle. Inspired and filled as she was with the Holy Spirit, she tells us what this child’s life will mean for the world, for those who have been lost and oppressed by the manifold variety and weight of human sin. She predicts the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world. He will turn human wisdom on its head. Because of him the first shall be last and the last shall be fist. The mighty, those who have lorded it over the weak, the poor, the widow and the orphan, will be cast down, and his coming will raise up the lowly.
It would be a mistake to take this only as a social, or a political message, though. The “mighty” is to be understood to be any of us who have sinned, through pride, giving ourselves and importance that we are not due. This sin of pride can take innumerable forms. It is those who remain obstinate, who refuse to relent, even in the face of the love of God, who will be cast down from their thrones. Those who have awakened to their sins, who have seen the error of their ways, who have thrown off the false wealth and power of pride and become humble before the Lord, will be the blessed lowly ones who will be lifted up on the Last Day. It is this infant in Mary’s womb who will ride into Jerusalem and be welcomed like a king on Palm Sunday thirty three years later. It is he who will be betrayed by one of his own Apostles only a few days later, who will be arrested, tried, found guilty by the haughty, the proud, the Pharisaical ones, and nailed to a cross on Calvary Hill. But it is this Jesus, seemingly brought low by the high and mighty, who will rise again on the Third Day, defeating them, and all of human sin and death, once and for all. In doing this he lifts up those who believe in him, those who have become humble, who willingly live in accord with his Way.
Lord, We who believe in Your Son Jesus, come before You during this Holy Week, aware of our sinfulness and our need for your great love and mercy. We wish to cast off our sinful ways. Bless us with your forgiveness and the wisdom of humility, so that we may be lifted up with you on the Last Day. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
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