He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty. Luke 1:53
“He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53). So sings teenage Mary, pregnant with the Savior of the World. It is a part of the Magnificat, her rhapsody about being chosen so shockingly to become an indispensable player in the great story of salvation – the transition from Law to Gospel.
Young Mary is saying that, in choosing a woman of “low estate” for this exalted role, God is being powerfully consistent. In Mary’s heritage, God has always insisted on social justice, a responsible sharing of resources. His prophets consistently laid down the law against wealthy and powerful exploiters. For example, in the famous words of the prophet Amos, addressed to the rich and powerful people he criticizes for exploiting the poor, “Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! … let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Mary says that her own elevation echoes this consistent theme about the justice God wants and models: he fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. This is not a punishment for the rich just because they are rich; it is a declaration that justice – that God – prioritizes those who have little. And it is a lesson for us who have plenty but seek more, and who thus thwart God’s consistent insistence that we do justice with our power and resources. Mary is swept away in admiration for this principle of the law, but she also has a glimmer of the transition from Law to Gospel. God is great for demanding justice, and He is even greater for bringing into her womb and thence into the world the Agent of forgiveness for the failure of all of us to deliver it. That forgiveness gives us peace. And that peace gives us gratitude and courage to work for justice.
Dear Lord: Thank you for your gift of peace that comes from forgiveness. Be with us as we seek to work for justice in your world. Amen.