A reflection for the third Sunday of Advent

Jennifer Vosters reflects on the readings for December 17, 2023.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Isaiah 61:1 – 2A, 10 – 11
Luke 1:46 – 48, 49 – 50, 53 – 54
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 24
John 1:6 – 8, 19 – 28

Reflection: A vision of a world made new

I have to admit: Sometimes, when I’m reviewing the readings for the week, I skip over the psalms. It’s not that I dislike them; I just kind of forget about them when moving from the first reading to the second. But I’m really thankful that, in preparation for this week, I didn’t skip the psalm, because it turns out this week’s psalm is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible: the Magnificat of Mary.

Taken from the Gospel of Luke—the gospel writer who by far paid the most attention to women in his work—Mary’s song of praise is much more than the words of a young girl giving thanks to God. It is a radical vision of a world made new. The lowliest are called blessed. The hungry are satisfied. The rich are sent away empty. In the unabridged version, the mighty powers are brought low; the proud are scattered; the humble are exalted.

Unsurprising, perhaps, that this passage has been banned in several countries during periods of unrest, including in India during British occupation, Guatemala in the 1980s, and Argentina in the 1970s. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was eventually executed by the Nazis, called it “the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung.” It is a rallying cry for believers in God’s kingdom on Earth, for the oppressed and downtrodden across time and space, and for those who seek justice in this life, not just the next.


This is among the most powerful scriptures we have. So what is it doing mixed in with all the readings about joy on Gaudete Sunday? Could it be that it is a roadmap toward building a world where joy can be shared by all, equally?

The Magnificat is a rare example in the Bible when we are given direct access not just to a woman’s words, but to her thoughts, beliefs, even dreams. Mary’s dream of the future and her skillful interpretation of what God is creating is full of joy, even amid the uncertainty of a changing world, even amid the strain of waiting for something new. She recognizes God’s goodness within the disruption of the status quo, in the promise of justice and a better life. She envisions the world that Jesus’s birth is meant to begin—a world of broken rules, radical generosity, and unabashed equity—and she finds it joyful to behold.

Let Mary’s joy be our joy. Feed the hungry. Exalt the humble. Turn every hierarchy on its head. Do what Jesus and Mary both realized they were born to do, and what each of us was baptized to take on. Find joy in the disruptive work of birthing the Kingdom of God.

Merry Christmas.