(22ndOrdinary Sunday: Sirach 3: 17-29; Hebrews 12:18-24; Luke 14:7-14)
Appearing in the French Alps, Mary abided by the injunction of the first reading: “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.” She did not choose the “lowest place,” geographically speaking. She did, however, associate herself with lowly people—not just two ignorant children, but generally speaking with the people of the locality.
Life in the mountains has never been easy. That year, 1846, had been harder than usual. With both the wheat and potato harvests blighted, the locals were rightly alarmed. Meanwhile, farmers in other areas with good crops began to hoard them, raising the prices beyond the means of the poor. Even Mr. Giraud, Maximin’s father, who was slightly better off than some of his neighbors, was worried.
Our standard of living is important to us. As much as we admire St. Francis of Assisi or other saints for deliberately embracing poverty as a way of life, few of us are drawn to imitate them.
We might, under certain circumstances, be willing to accept a certain decline in our fortunes. But we would not spontaneously “take the lowest place.” Even people who decide to live more simply are usually in a position to guarantee that their desires and needs will be met.
Mélanie came from a desperately poor family. Her parents really had no choice when they sent her out. from the age of eight, to work on the farms in the region of Corps, making for one less mouth to feed, at least in the summer. Their house was at the far end of the poorest street in town, the lowest place. In a bigger city, it would have been a slum.
By choosing her, the Blessed Virgin in a sense lifted her out of that world, bestowed a dignity upon her that should could never have achieved otherwise. Who could have expected that her name would be remembered over 100 years after her death?
Mélanie did not become rich. She relied on the kindness of others throughout her life. She could apply to herself the words of the Magnificat: ”He has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” Had she not been so lowly, she might never have been chosen.