By Frank Wessling
This is the week Christians call Holy. Why do we do that? Because in these days we remember with special attention the climax of our Savior’s life.
We do that today in the midst of corruption in our national life which pulls us away from the holy. The great events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection must speak to us where we live or they are no more than play-acting, our pious fraud. What do they say as we debate the great issue of the day: how best to comfort the rich and powerful?
That is us: the people engaged in a great conversation about how the richest 1 percent of us can continue to hold the power to decide questions of life and death for all of us.
It was very different as the spirit of God spoke through Mary at the conception of Jesus:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my savior,
For he has looked with favor
on the lowliness of his servant…
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation …
He has scattered the proud
in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry
with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
How do we receive revelation like that today? The hungry filled up while the rich go away empty? Lowly servants raised up while the powerful are brought down?
One way of hearing this exultation of Mary’s is by imagining pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye. That’s the way the old socialists used to mock our message of salvation: a great heaven for the dead, perhaps, but for the living, well, it was still the poor who were always left empty.
Or we can hear it in the way Jesus demonstrated: with a life overflowing in love that responds to the cry of the poor.
The riches we seek and the power we honor would be in the spirit of compassion that led Jesus to spend his life listening to people on the margins of health and safety and comfort. Our community leaders today spend their days otherwise; in seeking approval from people with money. They have to do that because it takes money to be elected. Does this corrupt them? Does this corrupt their friends? Does it corrupt us? Can we then hear the voice and the cry of the poor who sit outside the money vault?
Jesus told a story about what happens to people who live like that, about what happens to people like us. It’s in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 to 46. It’s a judgment story, so we should all read it this week along with the stories of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.
Our aim is to be with Jesus in the glory of his resurrection. In Jesus’ own life the road to glory began with a clear declaration of purpose echoing his mother’s joyous vision. He began his journey, his passion, by standing in the Nazareth synagogue to proclaim a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor… (Lk 4:18)
We are invited to enter that passion which fits us for eternal life.