Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
Asian theologian and novelist Marianne Katoppo over twenty years ago wrote that the Mary who sings the Magnificat is "a preeminent role model of humanity, growing into the full image of God." By being receptive to the action of God in her womb and becoming "the creative Mother" who brings "good news of salvation to the world," she has become the role model for both women and men. (Marianne Katoppo, United Presbyterian A.D. Magazine, December 1981, p. 21) Compare this to the role model for young girls held up by our culture: the Barbie Doll. Mary submits to the will of God and rejoices that the poor are lifted up with her. Barbie submits to the consumer ethic of our culture—young girls can buy more accessories for Barbie than millions of Third World mothers can ever hope to obtain for their children. Mary is concerned for those who have little or nothing of the world's goods; Barbie is obsessed with maintaining the slenderest possible body to be attractive to males. Mary leads us to give ourselves for God and neighbor; Barbie leads girls into excessive concern for their diets and their bodies. It is good we do not sing: "Ave Barbie, Mother of the Cult of the Self-Absorbed."
We need to also acknowledge that the Harvey Weinstein effect is real. At the beginning of October, The New York Times published a story in which numerous women, both named and anonymous, accused the now former Weinstein Company head of serial sexual harassment and assault. In the weeks that have followed, the allegations against Weinstein have increased exponentially as scores of women have come forward with allegations about other powerful men in entertainment and media. Though much of this behavior has reportedly been going on for years, the reaction to their alleged actions in the wake of Weinstein’s downfall has been swift and decisive. We are now living in a new world where the power of women needs to be celebrated. It is a shame that no one took seriously the role of women as we see in the Bible. We need to recognize the power of women in all our work for the poor and hungry in our world, not just the movie stars and the CEO’s.
Luke tells the story of the joyful meeting of two pregnant women with a minimum of words. The elderly Elizabeth's joy that she is going to be blessed with a child is increased by the arrival of the one chosen to bear the Messiah in her womb. Luke has Mary break into song, like a character in a Broadway musical, so full of joy is she at receiving her cousin's greeting and blessing. Mary is well aware of her status in life, and so her praise to God is even more fervent that he should look "with favor on the lowliness of his servant." This favor, she declares, will extend to all the lowly and the left out—to all those who stand in holy awe before God. I love the way Clarence Jordan translated this portion of Mary's Song: "With his strong arm/He scatters the big boys/Who think they're somebody./He pulls thrones from under the royalty/And gives dignity to the lowly./He loads the hungry with good things…." (Clarence Jordan, The Cotton Patch Version of Luke and Acts (New York, 1969] p. 16)
Australian Ron O'Grady is even freer in his paraphrase of this passage, Mary describing her womb as "on fire," and her soul as dancing "for joy." This "holy and good" God "loves the simple/and judges the arrogant/Powerful princes are routed/and little people are made whole/The poor receive bread/the rich walk away hungry." (Ron O'Grady, THE SONG OF JESUS: Reflection on the Life of Jesus of Nazara. [Melbourne: The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand, 1984], p. 11.
At the end Mr. O'Grady adds his own version of "Hail Mary," the poor calling her the "sweet saint of the revolution," by whose promise the poor survive. And so she has been regarded and honored by many struggling for justice in their impoverished nations where dictators and a small wealthy class would usurp her as a supporter of the status quo. We will let the scholars argue over whether Luke composed Mary's psalm himself or adapted it from a liturgical song, which was in turn based on "Hannah's Song" in the Hebrew Scriptures (1 Samuel 2:1-10). During the last quarter of the 20th century, priests, peasants, and theologians have rescued Mary and her Magnificat from pious irrelevancy (How many hundreds of versions have been sung, how many millions of times during the past 1900 years?) uncovering in the process the explosive insight that God is the God of justice and mercy who sides with the poor and downtrodden, those called by one famous revolutionary "the wretched of the earth."
Mary's Song follows in the stream of the prophet Isaiah of the Exile who wrote today's lesson from the Hebrew scriptures: "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, /because the Lord has anointed me;/he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, /to bind up the brokenhearted, /to proclaim liberty to the captives,/and release to the prisoners…" (Is 61:1). According to Luke, some thirty years later this will be the text of Mary's Son when he preaches in his hometown synagogue. And it is especially Luke who emphasizes what theologians have called "God's preference for the poor." (It is Luke, for example, who reports what probably were Jesus' original words in the Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor," the more pious Matthew removing it from the economic/political realm by spiritualizing it in his version, "Blessed are the poor in spirit.")
American theologians, such as the late William Stringfellow, also have recognized the political nature of Mary's words. In his book The Politics of Spirituality, he states that the Magnificat reminds us of the political significance of the coming of Jesus (p.43). During the same year (1984) another theologian, Robert McAfee Brown, devoted a whole chapter to Mary's Song in his incisive book Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes. He, of course, acknowledged his debt to Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez, whose book A Theology of Liberation first brought to the attention of American and European Christians this new understanding of scripture, one in which God takes sides in the world's struggles between the powerful and the powerless. This "preference for the poor" is evident from the book of Exodus throughout the Psalms and the prophetic writings, especially those collected under the name of Isaiah. That most theologians living in the comfort of Europe and North America failed to see this revolutionary theme running through scripture shows how culture-bound we are.
In Mary's Song this revolutionary action of God is evident when she expresses her surprise that God has "looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant." It was not to a princess in a palace or the daughter of a Jerusalem priest or even of a wealthy merchant, but to her, an obscure peasant girl to whom God would entrust the conception of the One foreseen by the writers of the book of Isaiah! Therefore, she declares in the second part of the song, God's "mercy is for those who fear him" throughout time—presumably this refers to those who look to God for their strength and meaning, rather than to their wealth or position in society. This is good news for those at the bottom of society, but bad news for those at the top, presumably those who do not fear God. They will be "scattered," "brought down," and sent away "empty," she declares. Dr. Brown shows the implications for us North American Christians in his book, suggesting that we need to rethink our priorities in our life styles and politics. Mary's Song for most of us should come as a stinging rebuke and challenge, a reminder that the God of Abraham and Sarah is very much at work in the world to fulfill the ancient promises made to our spiritual ancestors.
Mary’s Song, is an excuse this year as we struggle with the almost daily news of women in the work place being assaulted and belittled by men who many held in very high regard from Charlie Rose to Matt Lauer to think about the true power of the women in our lives. It needs to be pointed out again and again how women were as central to Jesus messages as were men. After all it is Mary who understands the world-shattering work of God in sending Jesus. Mary saw clearly that God was about to turn the world upside down.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
I had a laugh when I saw another Mary was the most powerful woman in business.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra tops Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Business list for the third year running. The ranking of 51 women includes 26 CEOs who control $1.1 trillion in market capitalization. Though the number of female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies hit a new record of 32 in 2017, that still only represents 6% of the total. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/09/21/fortune-most-powerful-women-business-list-gm-mary-barra-reese-witherspoon/689618001/)
Nicholas Damascus wrote: To me the woman who is the most powerful in the Scriptures would be the Mary carrying the creator of the universe and becoming the Mother of God in the human condition. That would be ample power for me. Power does not have to be utilized to be the greatest.
Is it the use of power that defines power? Power can be applied or implied with physical force, intimidation, persuasion, control, love, humility, etc., however, the most powerful force in the universe, for Christians, is God. Who and what is God. He is Love. What is love? Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, a powerful action.
It is love that conquers, or put another way, seduces. It is the humility and obedience that produces love that has moved, established, or destroyed kingdoms. Speaking of which, the salvation of mankind may have not happened yet if she did not consent God’s request. Mary’s power was not what we in the modern world would consider power.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (http://spokanefavs.com/maryscripture/)
Mary has very few recorded words in the New Testament, but her worldwide devotion spans across time, cultures and even religions.
In a Nov. 8 feature for National Geographic, “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman,” Maureen Orth explores the worldwide phenomenon of devotion to the Mother of God in anticipation of the Dec. 13 National Geographic Channel special, “The Cult of Mary.”
In her piece, Orth spoke with Marian scholars and experts and even followed pilgrims to Marian apparition sites to learn more about this “most powerful woman.” (http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2015/11/11/a-most-powerful-woman-national-geographics-major-hat-tip-to-the-virgin/)
As noted above, American theologian Robert McAfee Brown wrote a whole chapter on the Magnificat—"Mary's Song: Whom Do We Hear?"—in his book Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes. After expounding on each line of the poem and then comparing them to those in Hannah's Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10), Dr. Brown describes an experience he and his wife had in Lima, Peru, where they were attending a summer conference exploring theology, scripture and Catholic spirituality as forces to overcome poverty and oppression. The session concluded with a mass. At the words "the mass is ended," several thousand people arose and began singing the Magnificat as they left the hall. Outside, the police—the tools of the powers of oppression—took note of who was in attendance. The words of Mary's song meant much to those attending the conference—"he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts/He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;/ he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." They too were of humble origin, had no power of their own, and had often seen their children go hungry while others imported luxury items. Mary's words were revolutionary, so the Browns half expected the police to have their guns at ready and forbid the singing of such subversive words. However, to the police (Catholics themselves), they were merely the words of the Mother of Jesus, the one whom oppressed, and oppressors regarded as "the Queen of Heaven."
Archbishop Oscar Romero in one of his radio homilies made reference to Mary "as the expression of poverty, of humility" on December 12, 1977. The day was significant in that it was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Latin America. According to tradition, she appeared on December 12, 1531, not to a Spaniard conqueror or nobleman, but to one "of the least of these," a Mexican Indian named Juan Diego. It was just eleven years after Cortez's bloody conquest of the Indian's native land. Assuring him of her concern, Mary left her image on his cloak, which is still venerated in the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City. Archbishop Romero stated, "Mary's dialogue in America begins with a sign of poverty, poverty that is hunger for God, poverty that is joy of independence. Poverty is freedom. Poverty is needing others, needing brothers and sisters, supporting one another. This is what Mary means and what the church means in Latin America." Later in his talk he said that "Mary is part of our people's soul." (Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love: The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero. [New York: Harper & Row, 1988], pp. 26-27.)
Galdys Aylward, whose inspiring story as a missionary in China is told by Alan Burgess in his book The Small Woman and depicted in the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, was similar in some ways to Mary. She was of humble origin, working as a maid, yet she was seized by a seemingly impossible dream, that of becoming a Christian missionary in China. She had little education and was told kindly by those at the institution at which she applied to become a missionary, that at thirty she was too old for the difficult task of learning the Chinese language. Nonetheless, she persisted in her impossible dream, saving her meager servant's wages for the trip, which she was certain, would come. She learned of an elderly woman in charge of a mission in the interior of China. The woman needed an assistant. In their exchange of correspondence, she agreed that Gladys could be that person.
After an epic journey across Russia, Siberia, and a stop-over in Japan, during which Gladys overcame difficulties that would have turned back an ordinary person, she finally managed to reach the remote village of Yangcheng, where she became the assistant of seventy-four-year-old Jeannie Lawson. The two opened an inn where, after finally coaxing the reluctant muleteers to venture in, the two women and their loyal cook served up good food, clean beds, and a story about Jesus. Gladys slowly learned the local dialect from their cook Yang, so that by the time Jeannie died of injuries suffered from falling from a balcony, she could converse with the people. Soon the Mandarin appointed her, a district governor, to become the official Foot Inspector for the region. The Central Government had recently outlawed the horrible custom of binding up girls' feet so tightly that the growth of their feet was stunted, thereby keeping them close to home at all times. At first reluctant to accept the duties, Gladys soon realized that it would give her an opportunity to tell her Jesus stories to a far larger audience than the muleteers. The position, including a mule and an escort of two soldiers, also gave her the prestige she had not known before, being "merely a woman," as well as a safe means of traveling around the district. It is very appropriate that as Miss Aylward told the stories of the liberating Christ, she was at the same time liberating girls from the terrible bondage of foot binding. Gladys was uncertain as to what she should do during her first inspection, but as she saw the little three-year-old girl clinging to her mother, she ordered her feet to be unbound. She kept up a running commentary as the bindings were unwound, and then she grasped the curled-up toes and massaged the girl's feet. The little girl giggled with delight, and at this, the other women in the room drew closer, all of them wanting to join in the massaging. They began to talk with Gladys, and soon were spreading the word about the Foot Inspector and the good law that she had come to enforce. Gladys told her stories, enjoying the companionship of the Chinese women—peasants, whom most missionaries, shut up in their compounds and sticking to their Western clothing and customs, would never experience. Unlike the better educated, middle and upper-class missionaries, the former parlor maid was one of the lowly, the overlooked of the world whom Mary celebrated in her great song of liberation.
Even Pope John Paul II, hardly a revolutionary or a feminist, recognizes the social, economic and political implications of Mary, as Bill and Patty Coleman point out in their provocative book about their embracing a life of poverty and solidarity with the poor:
"In her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Mary proclaims that God's salvation has to do with justice for the poor. From her, too, stems authentic commitment to other human beings, our brothers and sisters, especially to the poorest and neediest and to the necessary transformation of society." The Pope's words were part of a homily he delivered during his visit to Zapoplan, a poor area of Mexico.
In the film The Third Miracle, a Catholic bishop orders the investigation of the life of Helen a woman who had been active in her Chicago inner-city parish. Since her death the statue of Mary in the church courtyard reportedly has wept blood whenever it rains, and a little girl supposedly has been cured of a serious illness. Every time it rains a crowd gathers around the statue in the hope of seeing a miracle again. There are calls for the church to nominate Helen for sainthood. Fr. Frank Shorein reluctantly sets out to gather the facts and determine whether or not the bishop should start the procedure. When, after many incidents that try his faith, he believes that there is sufficient evidence, he recommends that the cumbersome procedure begin. An arrogant German prelate, Archbishop Werner, with whom Fr. Frank had clashed before, is sent to represent the Vatican at the hearing. He announces that he will oppose Helen's nomination because in his view Helen is too common or ordinary to be considered for sainthood. Calling her "a little housewife," he belittles her work with the children of the parish. In his view she has neither suffered greatly nor undergone martyrdom for the faith. Surely, he reasons, God would not choose such a humble, insignificant person to be a saint. No doubt the elegantly dressed and mannered Archbishop would have dismissed Mary and her song, had he been present at the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary.
The one million wealthiest residents of Sao Paolo have fashioned a system whereby they can avoid contact with the multitudes of poor people in the city. The elite live in 300 gated communities, which come complete with armed guards. One walled community of 30,000 is protected by 1100 armed guards, who even frisk the people's servants as they enter the area. When it comes to commuting to work, more and more of the wealthy are opting to take a helicopter directly from their residence to their place of employment. Others are adding armor plate to their vehicles, which costs almost as much as the car itself. In the meantime, the city of Sao Paolo is falling into deeper chaos as crime runs rampant. The murder rate in Sao Paolo is eight times that of New York City. From an economic perspective, the middle class in Sao Paolo is disappearing, leaving only the fabulously rich and the appallingly poor.
The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church won a round in court against New York City. The church, which is in one of the city's most fashionable tourist areas, has been in the custom of allowing homeless people to sleep on its front steps. But last year the city police forced the homeless to remove themselves from that spot. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the church, asserting the church's right to allow the homeless to sleep undisturbed on their steps. The court pointed to the church's right to do so because the act was based on a sincerely held religious belief of the congregation.
An African king quite literally proclaimed release to the captives. Morocco's King Mohammed pardoned more than 8400 prisoners as part of the festivities surrounding his wedding, which took place this past July. At the same time, the king ordered that sentences be reduced for another 42,000 prisoners.
Both the Isaiah and the Luke passages point to the fact that it is God, not us, who will bring deliverance to the world. A popular movie from the late 1990s was Independence Day. The basic idea of the story was that the Earth was under attack by aliens, who attacked the United States using huge spacecraft. After some initial setbacks and defeats, the humans then rally together, and using their smarts and technology, they succeed in defeating the extraterrestrials. Those who have seen Independence Day probably notice that it is basically a remake of the 1953 movie, The War of the Worlds. Both movies center around the Earth being attacked by creatures from outer space. But in the 1953 version, when the humans resort to their intelligence and technology and develop a weapon to defeat the aliens, that weapon ends up being destroyed. When that happens— the people realize that the problem in front of them is greater than they can deal with alone—they turn to the only one who can help, namely God. God responds by infecting the aliens with a bacterium, which causes the creatures to eventually die off. The movie then ends with a voice declaring, "All that men could do had failed," as crowds of people stand on a hillside singing their praise to God.
Are we ready to announce the end of the evil that oppresses so many people? The town of Inglis, Florida, got quite a bit of attention earlier this year. The mayor of the town, which is about 75 miles north of Tampa, issued a proclamation officially banning Satan from their community. Part of the mayor's order stated, "Be it known from this day forward that Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis. Satan is declared powerless, no longer ruling over, nor influencing, our citizens." Of course, some people have made fun of what the mayor did. The mayor acknowledges that quite a few people have made crank calls to the city hall saying, "Hi, this is Satan. Can I come over?" But the mayor insists that it is important for people to take a stand and draw a line as to how much ground we're willing to give the devil. The mayor's goal was to take a stand for God and trust that God will be at work in their community.
Tennis star Martina Navratilova ruffled some feathers this past summer when she criticized the United States during an interview with a German newspaper. Navratilova contended that the only thing that matters in American culture is money. She said, "It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of `how much money will come out of it' and not on the questions of how much health, morals, or the environment suffer as a result." Navratilova, who dominated women's tennis in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, was born in Czechoslovakia but now lives in the United States.
Although Advent can be a special time to look outward and to seek ways to lift up the lowly, some view the holiday season as a time for personal indulgence. A survey conducted in England by Norwich Union Healthcare found that British businesses lose about $157 million a year because of Christmas parties. The amount is based on the number of employees who call in sick the day after the company's office party because they have a hangover. The report also discovered that a fifth of all party-goers take more than three days off work because of over-indulgence at a Christmas party. Men drink about twice as much as women at parties, with the average man drinking eleven units of alcohol—the equivalent of five pints of beer or 11 glasses of wine.
Recent business events have resulted in the fall of many mighty corporations. The Enron debacle is probably the most widely known of those corporate meltdowns. Telecommunications giant WorldCom headed toward bankruptcy this past year. Adelphia cable company saw its founder taken away in handcuffs. And Arthur Andersen, which once had been at the peak of prestige in the world of accounting, has now been reduced to practically nothing because of its participation in corporate wrongdoing.
Just eight individuals, all men, own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, Oxfam said on Monday in a report calling for action to curtail rewards for those at the top. (http://fortune.com/2017/01/16/world-richest-men-income-equality/)
Although computers were formerly seen as somewhat of a luxury, increasingly they are a necessity. Those who do not have access to the digital world are finding themselves more and more at a disadvantage in virtually every aspect of life. Don Tapscott, a noted commentator on contemporary culture remarks, "As information technology becomes more important for economic success and societal well-being, the possibility of `information apartheid' becomes increasingly real" (Don Tapscott, Growing Up Digital [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998], p. 11).
More and more top-level executives are realizing the value of leaving the luxury of their corporate office suites and spending time with the lower echelons of their organizations. The president of Carnival Cruises, Bob Dickinson, worked as a crew member on a Caribbean cruise, making beds, serving drinks, and carrying serving trays in the dining room. Following the experience, he commented, "It gave me a real appreciation of not only how challenging the jobs are but how artful the people are at it." In like manner, Central Park Conservancy President Regina Peruggi tied on some boots and helped plant trees, re-seed lawns, and pick up trash. After her day in the field, she observed how surprised she was by the pride that her employees took in their work. John Ferguson, head of the multibillion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America, spent time working as a prison guard at a medium security facility in New Mexico. All of the executives reported that the experience was extremely worthwhile. In the process, they came to a deeper understanding of the people whom they lead but rarely come into contact with.
Justin Martyr's description of the weekly worship service in his day noted that the service concluded with food being gathered by the deacons and taken to those in need.
"This isn't going to be a good country for any of us to live in until it's a good country for all of us to live in" (Richard Milhous Nixon).
"The Church exists for the sake of those outside it" (British churchman William Temple).
The burst bubble of Wall Street, the recent collapse of the "dot coms," and the bankruptcy of the airlines following 9/11 reminds us how fragile is the economy, and how much it is based on the projections, hopes, and greed of the collective consciousness. We were reminded of this with the Great Recession following the 2008 collapse. It is perhaps even more sobering to consider how much God cares for the lowly, the "have-nots," the oppressed and disenfranchised. If our hearts are in our investments, can God find room?
The old German story of the Christmas Spider reminds us how God can take what we think of as worthless and make it holy. The tale tells of a family cleaning and preparing their house for the visit of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. After every speck of dirt was removed and the tree lovingly decorated, the family went to sleep, happily anticipating the festive day to come. After the room was quiet, the spiders of the household wanted to see this wonderful tree brought indoors and so beautifully decorated. But spiders, of course, cannot see far away, so their inspection took them crawling all over the tree, looking at each ornament and candle. Every place they went, they left gray web, so that when they were done, the tree was covered in dusty spider webs. The Christ Child saw the tree, pleased with the spiders' joy, but knowing the family would be devastated at the condition of their tree. So he reached out and blessed the webs which turned to silver and gold. The tree was more beautiful than ever before. Many of us place spiders on our trees to this day to remember how Christ transforms all he touches into something beautiful in his service.
Methodist Bishop Arthur J. Moore, while serving as a missionary in China, reported that the Gospel could be clearly stated by the simplest people. As an example, he told of a Chinese woman with no education who stood in the service and said, "He die, or me die. He died, and me no die" (Moore, The Mighty Savior, [Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1952], p.35).
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us!
People: Let us then preach good news to the oppressed!
Leader: Let us bring hope and healing to the downcast!
People: Let us proclaim freedom to those trapped in sin! Let us announce redemption for all God's people!
God of the poor and lowly, Your power is revealed to us through weakness. You chose a humble servant girl and a crude manger and outcast shepherds. Holy Lord, we confess that there are many times when we shun what is weak and lowly. We lust for power. We savor prestige. We glory in the honors we receive. God of mercy, forgive us for our foolish pride. Grant us humble hearts, and help us to love the way that You love. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
God of hope, we are rich in so many ways: our refrigerators are full, our basements are packed, and our closets overflow. Yet at times we are not rich in our love for You. Receive our gifts as a sign of our thanks and commitment. Bless them and use them to lift up those whom the world has brought low. In the name of our Savior we pray. Amen.
God of wonder and glory, during this holy season, as the world in solemn stillness lay, we yearn to hear the angels sing that glorious song of old, that song that came upon that ancient midnight clear. We want to listen to the heavenly chorus, yet at the same time we hesitate to heed the angelic message. Our souls hunger, but instead of feasting on the bread of eternal life that you offer, we fill our bellies with the gourmet burgers which ultimately do not satisfy us.
While You open up the treasure chests of heaven for us and offer us the riches of Your kingdom, we neglect that gift. We pursue instead the glitter of the latest thing. In our foolishness we fail to realize that the wealth we seek is a wealth that all too soon will perish. Eternal Lord, enable us to see that You alone are the source of true and lasting treasures. Through our words and through our actions, lead us to value what You value, the poor, the homeless, the prisoner, and the outcast. In all that we do, may we be true heralds of Your gospel. Amen.