Proclaiming a God’s-Eye Point of View to the World
INTRODUCTION TO THE WEEK
In this eighth and final week of our study, we will consider various ways that a disciple of Jesus becomes a Prophet. Prophets embody and proclaim a God’s-eye view of reality. They have a keen perception of things that harm a neighbor on personal, interpersonal, and systemic levels. A prophet gives witness to relations between neighbors that have become distorted, forgotten and abused, so that corrective action may be taken to forgive, restore, and reconcile broken relationships.
This week’s focus on the role of disciple as prophet is taking place during Holy Week. Through the passion of Jesus Christ, we discover the high cost sometimes paid by a prophet who proclaims a God’s-eye view of the world in opposition to people who use coercive, violent power to rule the world. As people of the resurrection, however, we also know that the cross of Christ is not the final word in the cosmic conflict between God and the forces that oppose God’s will for the world.
Most of us probably do not think we are called to be prophets. We hope this week’s study will encourage many of us to reexamine that view and dedicate ourselves to embodying this essential aspect of following Jesus.
Monday: Jesus’ mother, Mary, sees the world as God sees and responds to the world As we have noted from time to time throughout these eight weeks of study, the author of the Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as God’s greatest prophet. Luke presents Jesus as a person concerned with how people of faith were ignoring the portions of Torah that had to do with justice, especially the treatment of the poor. In this Gospel a prophet boldly proclaims God’s point of view on things, even when threatened by those who want to seek only their own advantage.
Luke foreshadows the prophetic role of Jesus in his portrayal of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Although she is never called a prophet, Mary nevertheless embodies and proclaims a God’s-eye view of reality. After learning she is pregnant, Mary sets out with haste to a town in the Judean hill country [see photo at left]. She hurries to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth confirms that the child in Mary’s womb is very special indeed, Mary praises God in the prophetic language of The Magnificat, the song of Mary:
Mary said, “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. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the arrogant in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the humble; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:39-55).
Mary describes how God has blessed her, looking with favor on her “lowliness.”
• Mary recognizes her own “lowliness,” which includes both her personal humility and her objective state of poverty and powerlessness in her cultural context.
• From Mary’s point of view, God has blessed her and been merciful to her because she occupies her position of reverent and righteous living before God.
• Mary proclaims this God’s-eye view of reality: God blesses those who are humble, poor and powerless in the world; Jesus later incorporates this same perspective into his teaching of the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-23: God is blessing the poor, the hungry and those who are outcasts in the world.
• In Luke, Mary thus becomes the prototype example for those who prophetically proclaim in word and deed the humility and powerlessness that God recognizes and blesses.
Another aspect of Mary’s prophetic proclamation is what she sees God doing to the arrogant, rich and powerful in her world.
• Mary sees and understands that God does not condone arrogance, nor does God reward those who use power to lord over others; God is leveling the playing field and will reverse the fortunes of such people when God fully reigns throughout the world.
At various times in my own life, I’ve held leadership positions. I have learned from my experiences (both good and bad!) that there is a huge difference between exercising arrogant and powerful leadership by dominating others, and leading people from the middle, with humility, mercy and collaboration.
Questions for reflection
• What steps do you take to adopt an attitude and position of humility in your relationships with others?
• What are some of the temptations brought about by a person’s affluence, power or arrogance that might cause a person to act in ways that injure others or damage relationships?
God of mercy and surprises: keep me humble in heart and mind; give me the vision and wisdom to see how you are working in the world through the lowliness of your faithful servants; and fill me with the courage to stand and work always before you with humility and mercy toward others. Amen.