In her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Mary says, “He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” That line used to bother me. It sounds mean. I have often asked Our Lady what she meant by it exactly. I love the way she answered.
Some years ago I had the blessing of having a friend who was homeless. His name was George. He was eccentric, flamboyant, and charming. We were friends for years. George was fun to talk to.
One hot day I was on my way to my brother’s house with my two kids in the back seat: Maire, then eight years old, and Roise, only four. They were not being particularly good in the back of the car.
I got a call from George. I said, “Hey! How are you?” He said, “HOT! I’m very hungry and thirsty. Do you have any change so I can eat and drink?” He sounded hoarse. “Where are you?” I asked.
He was about a block away. All I had was a twenty -dollar bill for the week. I thought about it. I had paid the bills and gotten groceries for the week. But if I gave George the twenty, as I felt inspired to do, if we ran out of bread or milk we would have to wait until pay day for it. I was willing, I decided. I would be fine. George needed it more.
I headed his way. “Where are we going?” asked Maire. “We are going to help Jesus out today. He’s hungry,” I answered. “He smells bad!” complained Roise from her car seat. “Pretend he doesn’t,” I suggested. “Stop being so rude, Door Knob!” Maire scolded her sister. “Just offer it up!”
We pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot where George was waiting for us. I jumped out of the car and gave him a hug. The girls waved from the window. He waved back and asked them if they were being good today. This question they wisely declined to answer.
George wasn’t looking too good. I was worried he might be sick. He said he would be OK when he had something to drink. He was so happy about the twenty dollars he practically danced. He was wearing what looked like a bull -fighter’s outfit that day. A dance would have been perfect.
As we pulled away from a very happy and relieved George, who had been so hungry and now had the prospect of lunch and maybe even dinner, I looked around at my beaming, waving kids, and felt the smile on my own face, even though I was now broke for the week.
Then I realized that the hungry had been filled and the rich sent away empty. But both were happy.
It’s not a mean verse at all. And how like Our Lady to think of it!
“He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2: 5-7). And Jesus said whenever we feed the hungry we are feeding Him. So when we empty ourselves to feed Our Lord in those who have nothing we are sent away empty. But the one who is full of grace, the first one to nourish Him, knows well that grace and joy are our rewards. Who gave the sacrificial gift of self to Jesus like Mary did?
When we allow ourselves humbly to be filled, to receive the help of others with joyful simplicity the way George received that twenty dollars, then we will see that ours is the Kingdom, ours the inheritance of the Earth, because we live on God’s grace when we receive with humble trust. He responds to that and takes care of us. Who would know this better than Mary?
Then everyone is happy, everyone is fed. That’s what every mother wants; all her children fed and happy, all her children blessed. Our Holy Mother’s words in that verse of her Magnificat describe that surprising way her Son has of turning our thinking upside down and bringing us seemingly unlikely joy when we do whatever He tells us.
Through that days’ little sidetrack on the way to my brother’s house, Mary, our spiritual Mother, first and perfect Disciple, showed me a new way to ponder the Gospel in my heart as she had done as she lived it in her Son’s presence. I began to learn how to do what could be called “Marian Lectio Divina.* ” That is, to ponder how God is speaking to me in the events of my life. This “Marian Lectio On Life” can be done fruitfully by all of us because the Gospel is not just an historical account, not just a story to inspire, but it is “living and effective”, (Hebrews 4:12), happening right now all the time in our lives. We notice this as we cultivate the awareness of living in Christ’s presence through faith, as Mary did, physically every day. We learn to be attentive to His life in ours in the way she was to Him in hers. The same Spirit Who wrote the Gospels through its’ holy authors is always speaking the Word and making it more and more vivid to us as our lives unfold in His grace. We just have to learn to watch and listen and we will see and hear. Mary will show us how. If we ask her, and walk with her, she will point these things out to us all day. She loves doing that.
May the Most Holy Mother of the Word be blessed forever. Amen.
*Lectio Divina is the ancient Christian practice of reflectively reading the Scriptures with a listening heart, using the Scriptures to be in communion with God as in a conversation rather than analytical linear reading as we normally read.
To learn how to do the classic prayer form of Lectio Divina you could start with