The Debt of Privilege
As I was driving home from Maine the other day on I-84W through Connecticut, the exit sign for Newtown and Sandy Hook caught my attention. A wave of sadness came over me as I recalled the horrific loss of life to gun violence there 2 weeks before Christmas in 2012, when 2 adults and 20 children, who were mostly between 6 and 7 years old, never came home to their families again. Many more since have known a similar fate in cities and towns across the country as they went about their lives without thought of danger, in places as ordinary as schools, shopping malls, theaters, concerts, businesses, government offices, and churches. Their voices have been forever silenced. They can no longer urge us to spare other families the pain and sadness their own loved ones have known. We who still know the joy of seeing and being with those we love have responded with fear and anger and indifference, most of us, probably all three. And among those who have suffered most intensely are some who have chosen to speak out on behalf of those who no longer have a voice. They have embraced a mission to make right a most terrible wrong, and perhaps spare other families and communities from joining that sad list of places that have fallen victim to gun violence. The gift of life is a tremendous honor and privilege. And those who have that privilege can speak for those who are now gone. It is a debt we owe them for the privilege that is still ours.
There are many memorable instances in sacred scripture when those more fortunate have used their advantage and exalted standing to speak on behalf of the humbled and downtrodden. Joseph whose father Jacob gave him a coat of many colors was sold into slavery by his brothers, but rose to prominence in Egypt so that Israel would survive many years of famine. Moses, the son of slaves who was raised as a Prince of Egypt, lost his standing before Pharaoh when he took justice in his own hands. But God sent him to lead Israel from slavery to freedom, and settle them in the land God had promised to Abraham. David was a shepherd who slew the giant Goliath, and when he was made king, Israel became a great kingdom.
A position of privilege very easily opens many doors. Those who enjoy such honors and perks can sometimes be tempted by pride and greed to look down on others as beneath them. It is the rare soul reminded of her humble origins and by the favors and blessings from God most compassionate who is inspired to pass on such honors and perks to lift up all others around her. Occasionally it is the less fortunate and downtrodden who push the powerful to speak or act. Sometimes the powerful speak or act because they already share a bond with the lowly and those who suffer, or their hearts are moved to compassion for them in their lowliness and their suffering.
It is no wonder that the Virgin of Nazareth who from the beginning was favored with an abundance of God’s grace and raised from obscurity to bear in her own flesh God’s own Son would be preserved from the consequences of sin and death. It is the highest honor ever bestowed by the Creator. And with that awesome privilege she incurs a unique debt of always representing humanity before the throne of God.
Being a woman, she can speak for all her sisters. Being a mother, she is familiar with the joys and the trials that mothers and fathers experience. And she knows well what it means to care for and give her life for her children. Although she raised a perfect child, a holy child, she is sympathetic toward parents who struggle and children who give their parents cause to grieve. Her tender heart is particularly inclined to seek those who stray and those who have lost their way. She lost her son once when without her knowledge, he stayed behind in the temple to confer with the scribes and teachers of the law. She never knew sin personally like we know sin, but in that very instant she came to know what it must feel to be apart from God. And when she stood at the foot of his cross, she shared most intimately his anguish and suffering for the human family that he came to reconcile to the Father and to one another.
She is mother of the church, the holy people of God, the Body of Christ her Son. As such she is patron and guardian of every household, every family, every church community, and the entire church throughout the world. She is mother of divine grace, and mother of good counsel. She is the Mirror of Justice, the Seat of Wisdom, the Gate of Heaven, the Morning Star. She is the Health of the Sick, the Refuge of Sinners, the Comfort of the Afflicted, and Help of all Christians.
She is queen because her Son Jesus is King of all creation. And as queen, she cares for and seeks the good of all who belong to his kingdom. She is queen of angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the saints. She is queen and mother of all the living, all who yearn for life and its fulness, all whom God calls to himself, all the dying, and all who rest at last in God’s peace.
She is God’s humble maidservant, and she speaks for all who suffer dishonor and humiliation, all who are victims of persecution and injustice, all whose lowliness obscures their true dignity as daughters and sons of God.
She is the most privileged person in the history of the human family. But she does not stand aloof or distant from the rest of humanity. Instead she is always and ever our advocate before God. She speaks to her Son on our behalf. She truly knows and understands the trials and tribulations we face. And she is not deaf to our cries for aid and deliverance.
The place of great honor that the Virgin of Nazareth holds is a place from which she reaches out with tenderness and compassion to lift the broken and all who struggle. It is a debt of privilege to be mindful of those who are less fortunate and be willing to extend favor and blessing to them. And Mary teaches us by her example to be mindful of our sisters and brothers who must endure great trials and carry heavy burdens, who struggle each day to care for their families, who flee violence and danger, and who strive to live with hope and courage, free from want and fear, in peace with all.
On this feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we hear that her immediate response to the angel’s announcement of her amazing privilege was to reach out and assist her cousin Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth acknowledged her as highly favored by God, she used the occasion to proclaim God’s tremendous mercy and mighty deeds. So the Mother of God and Advocate of all the human family urges us to imitate her example of intercession. We who have known the joy and honor of God’s blessings owe our sisters and brothers in need a debt from our place of privilege to speak to God for them and to extend to them a share of the blessings we have received.
Rolo B Castillo © 2019