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Something About Mary

Dec 20, 2020

There is something about Mary.

There is something remarkable about the woman who is faithful enough  –  and daring enough   –  and strong enough – to put her trust in the promise of God to fulfill something which is impossible.

Many of us grew up believing Mary was quiet and submissive, a lovely lady dressed in blue, meek and mild. That is a cultural overlay, a myth that conforms Miriam of Nazareth to what we might expect in a church structure that entrusts men with power and demands that women keep silent. That leads to a whole lot of well-intended but inadequate theology,  of which many Protestants are rightly critical, in which Mary lets her friends in the backdoor of heaven and tells her son what to do. Passive aggressive Mary is also a myth.

Tissa Balasuriya was a Roman Catholic theologian and activist in Sri Lanka. Following his book The Eucharist and Human Liberation (which challenged those who receive Holy Communion to consider how the Bread of Life requires us to feed the third of the world that goes hungry)Balasuriyawrote Mary and Human Liberation. It is a fascinating book which describes Mary as a “strong, mature, working-class woman” who raises her son as a man who is revolutionary enough to follow the will of God in a conquered land. In his context, in a country that remains largely Muslim and Buddhist, the image of a docile Mary was a tool of colonial imperial power, teaching women that holiness means submission and invisibility. Balasuriya portrays Mary as the first disciple, the one who helps to form the thinking of Jesus. The hand that rocks the divine cradle is powerful. While many of his disciples flee, or deny or betray Jesus, Mary remains faithful. She is visible at the cross as her son is executed for being a troublemaker. She is a model for a mature Christian faith which rejects oppression.

There is something about Mary.

It is easy to dismiss or underestimate the influence and power of the woman who becomes the mother of God. Let’s not do that. Because we are all invited to be Mary, to listen to the call of God and to birth the Christ into our fractious and oppressive world.

We are all invited to join Mary as she sings the Magnificat, that wonderful hymn (Luke 1.46-55) that testifies to the power of God to bring about reversals of fortune in a very broken world. Mary’s song is a beautiful spiritual descant that hovers over the gritty harmony of her people’s poverty, failure, and discouragement. In the shadow of danger, Mary celebrates. The Mighty One has done great things for her, and for us, too, raising up the lowly, offering mercy, continuing to promise restoration and redemption. Mary’s song of praise is profoundly courageous.

In a season of economic and medical crises, anxiety over the future, and looking for someone to save us, there is no one better than Mary to show us what to do and how to do it. She is a role model for those who choose to honor the holy amid the suffering and confusion nof real life.

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