Puritans, English Protestants who wanted to purify the Church. After King James refused their reforms, they sailed to Massachusetts to indoctrinate the colonies, to counter all that was wrong with Roman Catholicism, to model Christianity in the new world. And their influence continues 400 years later: pro-morality and anti-celebration, a strong work ethic and a manifest destiny, and a misgiving about Mary.
Luke 1:39-56 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And 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; for 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 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. 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.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
What does Mary model for us?
We’re all God bearers, responsible for new life.
That God chooses the least likely, the lowliest a peasant girl with no prospects.
Women are profound prophets.
A woman was stuck in traffic, furious about everyone’s inability to drive. She laid on the horn, banged on the steering wheel, let the birds fly. In middle of her rant, she was interrupted by a police officer charging, “Lady, you’re under arrest. Get out of the car and put your hands up.” She was finger-printed and photographed, and booked at the county jail. Hours passed until the officer returned, unlooked her cell and apologized. He said, “I was behind you in traffic, heard you cussing the world out. And I noticed the two bumper stickers on your car. One said, ‘Follow me to Sunday School.’ The other, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ So I assumed you had stolen the car. (Joanna Adams paraphrased story)
“You say you’re a Christian,” remarked a French novelist, “then where the devil is your joy?”
Enough with the 17th century; enough with the stoic mistrust of smiling; enough with the emotional restraint of exuberance; enough with the puritanical contempt of merriment, and the Protestant suspicion of Mary. God doesn’t need us to get more serious about our faith, God needs us to get more happy about it. It is, after all, Good News.
What does Mary model for us?
A 12-year-old girl, pregnant out of wedlock, from the sticks of Nazareth, who is ordained to be the Church’s moral exemplar, who is the first disciple of glee, who can’t help but break out into song stanza after stanza singing:
Be joyful, no matter your barrenness, you are pregnant with God’s grace.
Be joyful, for cursed are the proud, and blessed are the meek.
Be joyful, the gluttons of prosperity will go bankrupt, and the hungry will eat their fill.
Be joyful, the despots will be dethroned, and the lowly will be lifted up.
Be joyful that the promises of God are fulfilled by a Savior who comes to us in diapers.
Let us pray: Hail Mary, Mother of God, purify our souls for joyful obedience in your Son’s holy name. Amen.