Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 2, 2001
Rejoice, daughter of Sion
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
"The Lord does not leave the virtuous man hungry,
The message is clear: One can know the state of a person's soul by knowing his or her economic circumstances. God will reward the virtuous with many blessings, including material prosperity, while the evil person will come to ruin not only in the next world, but even in this one.
To be sure, this was not the view of the prophets or the book of Job. In Job, we see the virtuous man hit with disaster upon disaster . . . until at the end God restores his wealth and good fortune.
But for much of Judaism at the time of Jesus, the understanding was that the rich were rich because they were righteous while the poor were poor because they had sinned. It was shocking to Jesus' disciples to hear him say, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25).
Jesus, no doubt, learned this from his mother. The Second Vatican Council called Mary, "Daughter of Sion." The council fathers saw a link between the angel's greeting to her - "Rejoice, highly favoured daughter" - and Zephaniah 3:14 - "Shout for joy, daughter of Sion."
What is this occasion of joy in Zephaniah? It is the day when the Lord removes from Israel those who are proud of their own virtue and leaves only "a humble and lowly" remnant who "seek refuge in the name of the Lord."
In Old Testament times the word "daughter" referred not only to one's female progeny, but to a place - the outlying village and rural areas of a city.
The daughter of Sion was the area outside Jerusalem where the people of Samaria came when the kingdom fell in the eighth century BC. It was a home for refugees, outcasts. It is with such that Mary is associated by being called Daughter of Sion.
Indeed, it is with these that Mary associates herself. When the Holy Spirit has come upon her and she is pregnant with the Messiah, Mary rushes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and proclaims, "My spirit rejoices in God my saviour for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant" (Luke 1:47).
Her Magnificat echoes the prophecy of Zephaniah as she proclaims the Almighty "has routed the proud of heart. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and has sent the rich away empty."
Mary is a revolutionary but her revolution is inspired by the Holy Spirit, not by political ideology. Indeed the political implications of her song have yet to be felt by the world that continues to keep the mighty on their thrones and sends the poor away empty.
Mary overcomes our neat separation of Church and state, politics and prayer. For her, everything is united into one. Likewise for her Son who "defiles" the Sabbath with secular activities and who is put to death as a political criminal at the highest Jewish holy day.
The ways of power-seeking are not the ways of Jesus and Mary. God's kingdom is not an earthly one. Yet there is the vision of a different way - a way beyond the structures of power and domination. And that vision cannot help but affect the way we view and treat this world.
Over the centuries, the poor and outcast have had a special devotion to Mary. Often the wise of this world have mocked that devotion. But Mary herself has been close to those on the margins. Her apparitions have been to those who are materially poor and living in out-of-the-way corners of the earth.
As Our Lady of Guadalupe, she appeared as a mestizo woman who was in solidarity with the suffering of the Aztecs. Today, in the new evangelization, we call upon Our Lady of Guadalupe to be our partner in helping us overcome the massive disparities of wealth and the abortion bloodbath that afflict the American continents.
Mary always searches out the faithful remnant because their humility, hope and faith in things unseen are something much greater than the ways of this world. They are the ways of God.
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