At the Visitation, even before the words of her cousin Elizabeth’s joyful greeting had ceased to ring in the air, Mary proclaimed the great things God had done for her in the canticle known as the Magnificat.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior,” Mary exclaims. “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-47, 49).
What had God done for Mary? “He has cast the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly,” she continues. “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).
God had given Mary the grace to believe that what the angel Gabriel had spoken to her would be fulfilled. With Mary’s consent God became incarnate in her womb.
Jesus had not yet been born; he had not yet preached the Kingdom; he had not yet died or risen from the dead; and he had not yet established his Church.
Yet Mary knows with the certitude born of faith that by His incarnation God has already initiated His kingdom of justice and mercy. He has had compassion on the poor and the lowly and our weak and fallen human condition. In this kingdom, the hungry are filled with the grace and righteousness for which they long.
If nothing else, the words of the Magnificat ought to intrigue us. They have the power to awaken a desire in our own hearts to know more intimately this God whom Mary knows and of whom she sings; this God who does great things for us and who lifts up the lowly. Pondering prayerfully Mary’s words may help us to recognize the Lord’s plan for our own lives, as Mary had discovered his will for hers.
When we do, we find “the vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us (CCC 1877). When we begin to recognize this vocation, we rightly wonder how to fulfill it. The Catechism gives us more guidance: “The human person needs to live in society,” it states. “Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation” (CCC 1879, emphasis added).
It is, then, through this exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue that we develop our potential to live as persons created in the image of God.
We find in this year’s theme for the Catholic Charities Annual Appeal an echo of Mary’s canticle of praise. Drawn from Psalm 113, the theme is “Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor!”
God’s mercy and love shines forth in the work of Catholic Charities—both in those who serve and in those who are served. Catholic Charities is an organization precisely characterized by “exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue.”
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City depends on our support. It receives relatively little from outside sources. Our support of Catholic Charities not only helps develop the potential of the agency to fulfill its mission or the potential of its clients to live in dignity as God’s children; it also helps us develop our own potential to recognize our neighbor as a brother and a sister. It helps us to recognize, with Mary, that God has done great things for us and that we must share these blessings with others.
It is often difficult to be mindful of the good things God has done for us if we are hungry, homeless or lost. It is perhaps even more difficult if we are satisfied but complacent and indifferent to the needs of those around us. Our support of Catholic Charities benefits others, but it also helps us live as children of God, created in his image, a God of mercy and compassion.
The Catholic Charities Annual Appeal, which you will read about in this issue of the Sooner Catholic, offers an opportunity to be generous toward others and to acknowledge how generous God has been toward us. “Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor!”