Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Luke 1:46-56: God's Saving Presence as a 'Definitive Preference' for The Poor and Dispossessed

Luke 1:46-56 (also known as the "Magnificat", or, Mary's song of praise on behalf of God's saving plan) lays out the "agenda" of what God intends to accomplish through the birth of Jesus Christ. Through God's promise to save and his Son, Jesus, Mary tells us: God "has mercy on those who fear him in every generation," God, "shows the strength of his arm" by, "scattering the proud in their conceit," God "casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly," and, finally, God "fills the hungry with good things, and the rich he sends away empty."

The "theological profile" of God's agenda as etched out by Luke through this song of Mary is that God's saving presence and plan manifests as a "definitive preference" for the poor and dispossessed. In other words, God's saving presence is anything but "scatter shot", applying "generically" and "universally" to all, irrespective of one's fundamental orientation to wealth and needy neighbor. Luke is unmistakably clear regarding to whom God's saving outreach directly aims, applies, and embraces: namely, those who are materially poor and those who are voluntarily dispossessed of entitlement, arrogance, and ill-gotten gain.

This undeniable and unapologetic depiction of a God who's saving presence manifests as a definitive preference for the poor and dispossessed should very definitely "rattle the cages" of those who feel that God's salvation is universal and unconditional in an "absolute" sense. God's salvation is indeed a gift, and in that sense is offered "without strings attached." However, from this side of eternity, to practically and efficaciously receive this gift and allow it to take hold of one's life means that it can only be received through a particular faith orientation which strives to be dispossessed of self concern to the degree necessary to become preoccupied for those who are needy. Mary's Magnificat, and the "pull no punches" theology of Luke underlying it, is a timely reminder of who really are the privileged subjects of Christmas hope: the poor and those who become one with them in solidarity. Pat, TOR