Mary, the mother of Jesus, is of course central to Advent and to Jesus’ life. Yet, she appears only a few times in scripture.

Mary’s “Magnificat” gives us a window into her spirit. Mary was unmarried, pregnant, poor—to be scorned in her culture as she would be in our own. Nonetheless, she strongly proclaimed the amazing ways God was working in her life and in our world. She sang with clear vision and boundless gratitude. Perhaps only those who have lived so close to the edge can appreciate the power and mercy of God as she did.

God turns our world’s notions of success upside down. “He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.” Mary’s song also foretells the mission of Jesus and his followers—to heal lepers, listen to foreigners, cross boundaries, spread God’s compassion. Two thousand years later, Jesus’ followers still stand with suffering people.

Consider your own “Magnificat:” Are there good things that you believe God has done in your life? Are there ways God’s grace seems to be working amid the people you care about—in your school, family, neighborhood or city?

—Mary Anne Reese is a lawyer, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.