Gospel 15th August 2008
Lowly and Blessed
ary said:My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,my spirit rejoices in God my saviour;for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant,and from this day all generations will call me blessed.The Almighty has done great things for me: holy is his Name.Luke 1:46 - 49.
I invite you to ponder over these four verses of St. Luke's Gospel and see if they describe you and your life right now. Mary uses two words to describe herself: ‘lowly’ and ‘blessed’; do they describe you too?
We do not usually think of Our Lady as being lowly; she was the mother of God and was without sin. Yet precisely because she was without sin, we may be sure that she did not take herself too seriously. She saw herself as an ordinary person among her neighbours.
At the same time, she knew she was blessed. She knew that God had given to her alone a most extraordinary privilege and she was bold enough to say that all generations would call her blessed. Mary accepted that she was lowly and she knew that she was blessed; as a result, she was joyful – ‘my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.’
Notice your own experience of being lowly. What is it about yourself and your life that makes you feel lowly? We are not short of things to make us feel small, weak, inadequate, unworthy. It may be our appearance, our health, our temperament, our education, our family background, our failures in work or in relationships, or our sins.
We go to great pains to escape from our lowliness. We can easily believe that it is our lowliness that keeps us from being happy and that what makes us worthwhile people is what we achieve in life. I heard of a man who had five children; he and his wife made great sacrifices to give all five of them a good education. Four of them studied medicine and qualified as doctors. In a casual conversation someone asked him how many children he had; he replied immediately, “Four doctors.” He may have lost sight of the fact that his greatness was not in the achievements of his children but in his love and generosity which inspired what he did for all his children.
The surprising thing is that it is possible to admit and accept our lowliness and have a sense of wellbeing and happiness. Our lowliness makes us aware of how blessed we are. Simon and Teresa Jaggan were celebrating their golden jubilee in Trinidad with their children and grandchildren and many of their friends. They had six children, five of whom were born with serious hearing impediments. For the first twenty-eight years of their marriage, Simon had a serious drinking problem. It was an enormous struggle for his wife to care for her family and to arrange transport for her children to their special school for several years. Then Simon had a deep religious experience and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. After that he never drank and took up his responsibilities in his home and in his community. Simon gave a speech at their jubilee. He said there were many things he regretted but could not undo. “I was not a responsible husband or father. I don’t deserve any of this. I thought I was going to die by the side of the road – but God saved me and made me a better person than I ever thought I could be.”
Think of the ways in which you are blessed. We are usually more aware of our problems and worries than we are of our blessings; yet for a sense of wellbeing we need to remember our blessings too. You may think of the good people in your life, the good things that have happened to you, the love you have received and the love you have given, the gifts and talents you have. As you look back over your life, you may see clearly that the Almighty has done great things for you. Watch out also for the many small blessings that keep coming your way.
In our time we have become aware of the importance of self-esteem; parents and children are encouraged to help children to see the goodness in themselves and to love themselves as they learn also to love others. In these four verses of the Gospel, Our Lady offers us something even more precious than self-esteem: the joy and wellbeing that come from the full acceptance of our lowliness and from the certainty of being loved and blessed by God.