Day 83 – The Triumph of the Humble (and When Does Life Begin?)

The Luke reading today illustrates a paradox found often in the New Testament:

  • the last shall be first,
  • the least shall be greatest, and
  • Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

This passage has three humble stars: the unborn John, Elizabeth, and Mary.

  1. Does the Bible prove  that life begins at conception? John the Baptist’s first prophetic role was to prove that indeed the pre-born are human!  When Mary spoke to Elizabeth, John “leaped for joy” inside his mother’s womb (Luke 1: 44). This unborn, unseen child was human enough to respond to Mary’s voice (and likely because he prophetically recognized that the Messiah was visiting, too!).
  2. Elizabeth is old enough to be past childbearing. She has been shamed because of her inability to have children (1:25). Yet God made her the mother of John. When the teen-aged Mary comes to stay with Elizabeth, I’d expect Elizabeth to take on the role of guiding mentor, substitute mother. Instead, she humbly says, “…why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (1:43)
  3. Then there is Mary who doesn’t presume upon God – as we do when we negotiate for blessings – but she says:

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant. (1: 46-48a)

The next part of the passage used to annoy me because it didn’t seem realistic. I mean, imagine Mary walking into Elizabeth’s home then bursting into poetry, if not song.  Really…

Then I realized that if this really happened (and it really did), then I had to think how it actually happened. And here’s what I think: Mary composed that poem on the way to see Elizabeth. The excited teenager who now understands why she is pregnant (and sees the gift in it) processes the miracle in writing.

I now imagine her coming through the door, paper in hand, earnestly sharing the poem with her older cousin. Or maybe it was papyrus. Well, she probably memorized it. They were good at memorization back then.

And here’s what Mary’s poem says –

  • the last shall be first,
  • the least shall be greatest, and
  • Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

It was true for baby John, Elizabeth, and Mary. And it’s true for us.

Read the Magnificat for yourself and see if you don’t agree.

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20, Psalm 37:7-11, Proverbs 12:9-10, Luke 1: 39-56. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts.

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