Luke Chapter 1 is a very long chapter and it begins with a dedication to Theophilus and an emphasis on the veracity of the narratives that come after. It is then followed by the promise of two births, to two joyful women. Both promised children are long awaited and, more importantly, the conceptions of both are a surprise. Elizabeth was barren and was of old age. Mary was betrothed but was a virgin. But both their sons will bring rejoicing at their birth. One will be named John, and the other, Jesus.
Mary and Elizabeth will become mothers for the very first time. It must have been a joy. But it must have also been a burden. In Moses and Jesus’s birth, infants were massacred by pharaohs and kings. Mothers who conceived and bore sons who were blessings and the future of their people, could do nothing in the face of such cruelty and violence. Some scholars argue that the massacre of infants was a myth, but throughout history and in many parts of the world, infants have been massacred. For some it is a swift death. For others it is a suffering endured through a life-time of poverty.
Interestingly, the Luke 1 text and the following chapters seem to proceed in a singsong manner. Portions that follow are entitled “The Birth of John the Baptist,” “The Birth of Jesus,” “The Shepherds and Angels,” “Jesus Named,” “Jesus Presented at the Temple,” “the Boy Jesus in the Temple.” It seemed that Jesus went on to live a normal and happy life. But in the “Song of Mary” in Chapter 1, Mary proclaims subversive statements. She talks about scattering the proud, pulling down the mighty from their thrones and sending the rich away empty. If those words were uttered in the Philippines today, in the presence those who had power, this would cause disturbance and may be perceived by those who have power as a threat. It could also be interpreted as rebellion and one may be marked as an “enemy of the state.”
Nevertheless, I like this side of Mary. This is the Mary that would have raised a savior. A messiah. Jesus did not live a sheltered life like the boys who study at Ateneo Grade School; Jesus did not have a car and a driver to bring him around wherever he wanted to go; and Jesus, probably was not provided everything he needed, but was more like the boys we see on the streets who learned to survive. Mary taught Jesus about the realities he had to live with every day under the power of the Roman Empire. She probably told him everyday to take the side of the lowly and the hungry. She must have taught Jesus not to revere power and authority but to fear only God. To submit only to God.
I know. Because I teach my son and daughter the same thing.
Lizette G. Tapia-Raquel
July 13, 2012