An Exegetical Reflection on the Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C, Luke 1:39-45, December 23, 2012
DURING THE UNLAMENTED dictatorship, some soldiers, on the one hand, planned to stage a coup d’etat to topple the Marcosian rule. The communists, on the other hand, stuck to their strategy of armed conflict from the countryside. At any rate, both groups wanted to give expression to the people’s clamor for an end to the dictatorial regime. But despite their conviction of their ideological approaches, and for all their tested and even sophisticated strategies and tactics, neither of them succeeded in their effort. Ironically, what eventually took place seemed almost impossible--people power put an end to the Marcos in a way no one—not even the brightest of the left and the right--ever envisaged in his wildest dreams. The people power which was ignited by the call of Jaime Cardinal Sin for men and women to gather at EDSA, even though without strategic planning, shamed both groups, for it proved to be more effective in dislodging the power of Marcos. There could be various explanations for the people power phenomenon, but for those who have faith, that was a result of God’s action for his people who cried out to him. It was an answer to their prayer for liberation.
And somehow, that event illustrates to us where to pin our faith in. To be sure, we seem to lack trust that God could accomplish things. We so much depend on material things (Ps 20:8; Isa 31:1), on the military or politicians, on our creativity. How often, for example, people thought that if a new political leader emerged, the nation would be renewed, only to find out that the new leader merely did what his predecessor had done. Even when it comes to physical health, there are some who completely rely on medicine and technology, and who regard as charlatans those who call on God in prayer and supplication. Oh yes, we think that our happiness, well-being and salvation rest on our own powers.
But the biblical experience is different. When David, for example, was confronted with the Philistines, he did not put in faith in his sword, but in the hand of God, and answered them: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted. Today, the Lord shall deliver you into my hand” (1 Sam 17:45). This faith is echoed in the Psalms: “A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. Useless is the horse for safety; its great strength, no sure escape. But the Lord’s eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help, delivering them from death, keeping them alive in times of famine” (Ps 33:17-19).
And today’s Gospel, the Evangelist Luke invites us to look at our faith. Salvation comes from the Lord (Ps 18:3); all we need is to trust in his Word. This is precisely why Mary is blessed (makaria). Unlike Zechariah who did not believe that the words of the angel about the conception of John would be fulfilled, she trusted that what the Lord promised her would see realization (Luke 1:45). With faith she accepted the message of the angel, even though to human appearances this was impossible. With humility she said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:39). Yet, the same may be said of the faith of Abraham. God promised him a great nation (Gen 12:1), and even though he did not know how it would be done, he put his faith in him (Gen 15:5). He even hoped against hope (Rom 4:18), he being nearly one-hundred years old, and still without a son. But it was by putting his faith in God’s word that he became the father of many nations (Rom 4:15-21).
Today, we are still caught in a web of evil: political, economic, psychological and even demonic. How we look to politicians to save us!—as if they could not betray the interest of the nation. But we should realize that it is foolish to expect salvation from violence (Ps 44:7), from foreign government (Lam 4:17), from a powerful army (Ps 33:17) or from men (Isa 26:18). In the final analysis, we must recognize that God alone is our savior: “But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will put my trust in God my savior; God God will hear me” (Micah 7:7). And God will save us if like Mary we trust in him (Isa 30:15), if we take refuge in him (Ps 37:39-40). Mary provides us with a pattern by listening to God’s word and doing it (Luke 11:27-28). We walk in his path (Ps 25:5), our hearts clean and our desires not vain (Ps 34:3-5). In short, Like Mary, we ought to be obedient, doing God’s will, as Jesus himself was: “Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do you will O God’” (Heb 10:7).