God has sent me to bring good news to those who are poor; to heal broken hearts; to proclaim release to those held captive and liberation to those in prison; to announce a year of favor from YHWH, and the day of God’s vindication; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who grieve in Zion — to give them a wreath of flowers instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of tears, a cloak of praise instead of despair. –Isaiah 61: 1-3a
When YHWH brought us captives back to Zion, we thought we were dreaming! Our mouths were filled with laughter then, our tongues with songs of joy. And from the nations we heard, “ God has done great things for them.” Yes — YHWH has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126: 1-3
Mary said: “My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior. For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant, and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed. For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me, and holy is your Name.” –Luke 1: 46-49
The words of the prophet Isaiah offer a prophetic vision that Jesus will also claim in his ministry. Likewise, we are called to claim the gift of being fully present with all people–those who mourn, those who grieve, those who have suffered indignity and oppression. Mary’s Magnificat is prophetic as well. She claims the overturning of injustice even before it has come to pass. Joy is not the equivalent of happiness, but rather the deep conviction that we are called to be present in the work of bringing about “great things”–a better world for those who need it most.