The Visitation – Luke 1:39-56

Fecit mihi magna. He has done great things for me. Pope John Paul the Second was so taken with this verse from the Magnificat that he had it printed on a holy card for the day of his ordination. In spite of misplaced honor toward the Blessed Virgin Mary in Roman Catholicism, we agree with his choice of words. The Lord, the Mighty One, has done great things for me.

You can’t tell it from all the complaining we Christians do. We complain about walking by faith and not by sight. We complain about Jesus not having come yet to begin the New Creation. We complain that we can’t see the riches of God’s grace. We gripe about being the most despised and most rejected people in the world. We groan in our flesh because we know and feel how much we sin. Even Saint Paul gets in on the act in Romans chapter seven: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

In addition to all the complaints are the curses of the Law in the conscience. The more we have satisfaction in Jesus Christ’s blood cleansing us from all sin, the more Satan works overtime to sully the conscience. We start thinking about death and hell rather than eternal life and eternal joy in the presence of our heavenly Father. We start to sound like Jacob telling Pharaoh, Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life.

There isn’t constant complaining among Christians. The Psalms have taught us to say, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Isaiah has taught us to say, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. Even Mary’s song puts these words in our mouth and in our hearts: The Mighty One, the Lord, has done great things for me.

The great thing the Lord has done for Mary isn’t chastity, virginity, even sinlessness. Elizabeth tells her, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Blessed indeed is Mary, for she is, as it were, the tabernacle with skin. The Lord has temporarily pitched His tent in her until His birth according to the flesh. The joy of Elizabeth’s words is directed to the Lord. The fruit of her womb brings salvation for Mary, for Elizabeth, for you, and for me.

When we have enough money or possessions, then we will be satisfied…or so we think. Learned people raise up themselves and despise those of simpler minds. The world is full of prideful people. Those who cling to Christ, though, are rich in spirit, knowledge, experience, and gladness. Money and possessions are gifts from God worthy of praise. However, the greatest praise is given to God for sending His only-begotten Son into time and space to bear our sin and be our Savior. From what Jesus has done for us comes all praise and honor to God.

Praise and honor to God isn’t mere lip service. Mary says, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. The entire life of Mary, our entire life as well, bears witness of God’s greatness to me. Out of the billions of people on earth, the Lord deigns to save me, a lost and condemned creature, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Sure He saves all mankind in His death, but He also saves me, little ol’ me!

No wonder Mary goes on to sing and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. God’s grace, His undeserved love for sinners, has happened to me. His grace recognizes me. He lives in me, for I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. That is why your soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. He is my God. He is my Savior.

So much for how Mary, and we, praise God. Why, then, does she, and we, too, praise God? Because He has looked with favor on the humble state of His servant. God has considered Mary, and you, from eternity. Think of it! God knew you before anyone else knew you. He knew your wretched state and did something about it for you. God took decisive action to be your God from the beginning and now has you in mind as He is about to carry out salvation in Jesus. Yes, He sees nothing but wickedness in you, but He has exalted you in Christ. No wonder you now praise God!

From now on all generations will call me blessed. All generations will praise God’s work for your sake. Think of those in your families who have gone before you in the faith. When they receive Christian burial, we praise God’s grace on them, not all the good things they did to earn God’s favor. We don’t worship our ancestors. Any praise we give them, and it’s OK to honor the dead without overdoing it, we praise God’s work in them.

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. He did it – not me. His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. His mercy knows no end. His mercy is why God gave us His Son. Mary ends her song with the words, He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering His mercy. God remembers His own mercy. What comfort these words bring us today. Two women bear two men whose words will change the course of history. John the Baptist will prepare the way for Messiah. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Word of God come down from on high, is the Way to salvation. He alone makes the necessary sacrifice for our sin. He alone is the mercy of God clothed in flesh and bone.

No wonder these words of praise from Mary’s mouth are frequently sung in church. We usually consider them around Christmas time, but they are good for consideration at any time. The little baby Boy in Mary’s womb is the source of praise and thanksgiving for countless Christians. He brings peace between God and man. His mercy endures forever. His bruised foot stomps the serpent’s head, giving us life and freedom. There is a time to mourn, yet there is also a time to rejoice. Today, as all days, is that time to rejoice, for fecit mihi magna, He has done great things to me. Holy is your name, for holy is His name upon you.

 

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