Thursday December 22, 2005 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 the glorious song of our Blessed Lady at the time that she visited her cousin Elizabeth; it is the hymn known as the “Magnificat.” It is Our Lady’s hymn in response to Elizabeth who called our Blessed Mother truly blessed among women.
Our Lady, you notice, immediately removes any focus from herself. She says, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior. So it is not about her. It is easy, of course, for Elizabeth to see what the Lord has done for Our Lady and to call Our Lady blessed, and indeed she is. Yet, at the same time, if we just put ourselves into a similar situation, if somebody were to say to you, “Look at how blessed you are! You are just the best! You are the greatest!” we would have to say, “Wait, wait, wait. Anything good that you see, God has to get the credit. It isn’t about me; it’s about Him. If He has done something in me that deserves some kind of praise, then He is the one who deserves the praise, not me.” We can all understand why we should do that–unfortunately, we do not always do it so well–but that is the reality of what needs to happen. Our Lady’s humility is such that she did not even hesitate. She did not seek one ounce of glory for herself; she gave it all to God.
Then she lays out for us exactly the way that we too can be blessed the way she is; obviously, not to be able to conceive Christ and bear Him, but rather to have the grace of God and to walk according to His way. And so she goes on, after stating in her humility that all generations will call her blessed, and she says, first of all, that God has mercy on those who fear Him. That is not being afraid of Him; it is that filial fear, that is, the fear of offending God, that we would love Him so much that we would not want to offend Him even in the slightest way, to have that proper kind of reverence in the Lord’s presence.
Then she says, He has shown the strength of His arm and scattered the proud in their conceit. The proud think that they do not need God, so God shows His strength. And He shows His strength in ways that seem so hidden. In this particular case, He showed His strength through the conception of a baby. It is hidden; you cannot even see it at this point. Yet, at the same time, this child was conceived of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. You see the power of God. And through the most humble of means, that is, through a baby and a mother, God has completely scattered all the proud.
But if we want to be able to do the Will of God, we need to get rid of the pride. Just as Our Lady would say that God has looked upon his lowly servant, that is the opposite of those who think they are something important. God cannot do anything with somebody who thinks they are important because they will get in the way. They do not think that they need God, so He cannot do anything with them anyway. We need to get out of the way. We need to be humble, to see ourselves as lowly. Saint Paul says that each one of us should think humbly of ourselves as being lower than everyone else, thinking everyone else to be greater than we. So here we have Our Lady, the most perfect human person to ever live, and that is exactly what she did; she made herself less than everyone else. She was the most humble human person ever to live. Our Lord, Who is God, took the form of a slave and made Himself less than a slave. Again, here we have the two greatest persons ever to live and what did they do? Made themselves little, humble, and nothing. It is kind of the opposite of what most of us tend to do.
And she says that God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, but He has lifted up the lowly. Again, we see what happens. If we are willing to make ourselves humble, He will exalt us, which is exactly what He said He would do. God will always humble those who exalt themselves, but He will exalt those who humble themselves. He has filled the hungry with good things, but the rich He has sent away empty. The rich do not need God; they can rely on their money, as far as they are concerned. They think that they have it made. But when things get difficult, they are going to find out exactly how much their wealth has gotten in the way and how much it has led them astray from God. But those who are poor, those who have always relied on God, He will continue to bless them and fill them. He has not made their lives easy, but He will always provide. That is a lesson most of us need to learn.
And then, He has come to the help of His servant Israel because He has remembered His promise of mercy. God’s promises are forever. They never stop, they never go away, and they never change. When God speaks a promise, it is perfect and it will be fulfilled exactly as He spoke it. Now that does not mean that the way we understood it is the way it will be fulfilled, but the way that He spoke it will be fulfilled perfectly.
So if we can learn, like our Blessed Lady, to simply trust God, to be humble, to be charitable, and to get out of the way, then God can raise up, He can do great things in us, and we will be blessed. But that requires our cooperation with His grace to become humble, to become lowly, to become small. These are not things that we do naturally and they are not things that come easily. We need to pray for that grace, and when the grace is given we need to try to cooperate with it, and in this way to learn from our Blessed Lady exactly the best way for our souls to magnify the Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.