“The Mighty One has done great things for me” - Luke 1:49
Like any good English major, I’ve always had a soft spot for grammar. When I read today’s beautiful Gospel passage, I couldn’t help but notice that Mary’s famous Magnificat is written in the present perfect tense: “The Mighty One has done great things for me.”
Mary doesn’t say “The Mighty One did great things for me”—that would be the plain old past tense. Rather, she says He has done great things. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud. He has cast down the mighty and has lifted up the lowly.
We use the present perfect tense to speak about an action that began in the past but continues into the present. God’s action is ongoing!
God certainly wasn’t done doing great things for Mary at the Annunciation. In fact, He was just getting started. And while we may be nearing the end of this Advent pilgrimage, God certainly isn't done doing great things for any of us either. On the contrary, He’s just getting started: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). What great things has the Mighty One begun in you?
Even though Mary’s greatness may have only just begun, she paused to reflect and give thanks. I am an avid journaler because I’ve found that reading my past entries sheds a lot of light on the present; I’m better able to recognize the ways in which God is moving in my life. This final weekend of Advent is a wonderful opportunity for us to pause and take stock of the blessings in our lives.
Mary offers us a beautiful example of this gratitude and humility. Elizabeth has just finished praising her (“Blessed are you among women”), but Mary immediately points to God as the source of all her joy. Don’t look at me, look at the One who has done all this through me! Don’t proclaim my greatness, proclaim His: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
This exclamation of gratitude actually flows from the lips of two faithful handmaidens of the Lord. Mary’s Magnificat echoes the words of Hannah’s Song (our responsorial psalm today), “My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior” (1 Samuel 2). Both women rejoice at the birth of an unexpected child, and both women lovingly return that child to the Lord for His glory. Just as Hannah leaves Samuel in the temple and dedicates him to the Lord, Mary also knows that she cannot keep her Son to herself because He is a gift to all the world. These faith-filled women responded to God’s goodness by giving everything back to Him with praise and thanksgiving.
What gifts has the Mighty One bestowed upon you? And how can you, like Hannah and Mary, return them to the Lord for His glory?
Let us pray,
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
This reflection was written by Megan Beck
Megan Beck is a second-year Master of Divinity student at Notre Dame. It was through an undergraduate degree in English that she first began to recognize her passion for theology.