Give the Glory to God
Monday December 22, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Advent
Reading (1 Samuel 1:24-28) Gospel (St. Luke 1:46-56)
In the Gospel reading today we hear Our Lady’s Magnificat which is her response to Elizabeth at the Visitation, when Elizabeth gives glory and honor not only to God but to Our Lady and blesses her for her belief in what God had promised her and how it has found fulfillment. Now, one of the temptations that most of us would probably face if we were in that boat is to look at our own selves, to somehow think how wonderful we are – “Look at what’s happening! Isn’t it great that this is happening within me?” We get all caught up in the self; pride gets in the way. Our Lady, on the other hand, turns it exactly where it belongs, and that is to God. She begins by saying, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. She just gives all the glory to God. She does not look at herself for anything except for her humility, her nothingness – He has looked with favor on His lowly servant – and then prophesies what is the truth: From this day all generations will call me blessed. Not because of anything that she has done, but rather because of what God has done in her. She makes that very, very clear: For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. So when we recognize just how blessed Our Lady is, it is because of God.
Hannah recognized the exact same thing in the first reading. We recall from 1 Samuel that, when she was in the temple praying, Eli the priest thought she was drunk and tried to kick her out of the temple because she was making a fool of herself, when in fact she was a woman with a broken heart. She was praying because she did not have any children and she begged God for a child. Now she had received the child and brought him back to the temple as a young boy and presented Samuel to the Lord. What we heard in the responsorial psalm today was actually the song that Hannah sang after she presented little Samuel in the temple. In many ways, it is very similar to the Magnificat of Our Lady; yet, at the same time, when you look at the points, in many ways it is very different.
For Our Lady, the focus is solely on God, and she teaches us that that is what we have to be about as well. It is made very clear in Our Lady’s hymn that God has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. He is with us; He has not abandoned us in the least. He will show mercy even in our generation, and the mercy that He will show is not only to forgive our sins but to raise us up to be saints, to raise us up with Our Lady so that we too will be able to glorify God, so that our souls, like hers, will be able to magnify Him. But in order for that to happen, two things have to occur. First of all, we have to have a deep prayer life; and secondly, we have to recognize that all the glory and all the credit goes to God and nothing goes to the self. When we look at what Our Lady did, we can say, “But she had to cooperate. She still had to say “yes” to the Lord and she should get credit for that.” On one level, we can say “yes”; but on the other level, we have to say that even the grace to be able to say “yes” came from God. So too for ourselves, the grace to be able to say “yes” to God, whether that is the grace to say “yes” and get out of bed halfway through the night so that you can be here at this hour of the morning, or whether that is the grace to be able to live your life for God, the grace to be able to pray, the grace to even be able to desire to do the Will of God in your life – all of that comes from the Lord. So He gives the grace to desire it, then He gives the grace to be able to do it, and then He gives you the reward for having done it! All of the credit, one hundred percent, goes to God. It is true, you have a free will and you could turn it down; and so we even have to thank God for giving us the grace to exercise our free will in such a way that we would say “yes” to Him. So we get credit for that one little thing: We said “yes”, and some of us probably pretty reluctantly some days but at least we said “yes”. Everything else, the Lord gets the credit.
Now in our society, which focuses solely on the self, that is not a popular message. But I think if we take it to prayer and look at it seriously, we are going to have to acknowledge that it is the truth. And once we can understand that it is the truth, then, like Our Lady, all that we can do is acknowledge our littleness and that God in His mercy has looked with favor upon us. She is without sin; she could understand it completely. We, who are exceedingly sinful, will have far greater difficulty being able to not only understand it and accept it but to be able to put it into practice. But we can ask Our Lady’s help and she will provide for us. She will intercede and obtain for us the grace so that we will be able to be her children, truly her children, and be able to accept and act just like Jesus Christ, Whose members we are. That is what Our Lady would want for us more than anything else in the world. Then, like Jesus and like Mary, we will be brought into the very glory of God in this life so that even here in this world, with Our Lady, we will glorify and magnify the Lord in everything of our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.