This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, 1 Samuel 1:24-28
24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, as well as a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and took him into the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; the child was very young. 25 They sacrificed the bull and led the child to Eli.
26 She said, ‘If you please, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood beside you here, praying to the Lord. 27 This is the child for which I was praying, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’ They then worshipped the Lord there.
This is the beginning of the story of Samuel who was to become the last and greatest of the “Judges” of Israel, being both prophet and priest. Except it’s not the true beginning which is the humiliation of his mother Hannah seen as barren and therefore worthless as a wife. The Lord “looks upon” her when she prays so passionately that the priest thinks she’s drunk, that is, he takes account of her need and responds, so that she has a child. She has promised that the child will be dedicated to the service of God, and she keeps her promise. The modern reader feels for the child “handed over” in this way, but we are meant to see that whole life of the child is blessed by his mother’s passionate gratitude to God. It is entirely appropriate that this story ends in worship, as the gospel story also does. There is a sense that the lives of mother, child and God are intertwined in a way that defies explanation.
Gospel, Luke 1:46-56
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
48 because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name,
50 and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him.
51 He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart.
52 He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly.
53 He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty.
54 He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love 55 -according to the promise he made to our ancestors — of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.
56 Mary stayed with her some three months and then went home.
Mary’s song of praise echoes the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. She sees herself as the representative of Israel, so often humiliated by more powerful and prosperous nations. She herself is one of “God’s poor” who have found their wealth in obedience to God’s will. She sings out her joy as the mother of the promised messiah. But did she sing it in fact? Is not this song the composition of the writer, Luke? Yes of course he composed it, but his skill allows Mary, daughter of humiliated Israel and poor herself to sing of God’s saving justice to the poor and his rejection of the proud and prosperous, to sing her fierce joy in God to all times and places. The song bursts out in the barrios of the poor and shakes the palaces of the complacent every Advent. God’s saving justice however is not an abstract quality or a political programme; it is Jesus Christ, the child born in Bethlehem.