When the commute is prayer

Statue of Mary at Carmel Mission, Carmel, California

A half-hour commute is a mixed blessing.  The downsides: one hour per day spent in the car; astronomical amounts of money spent on gas; near-panic when the traffic c-r-a-w-l-s and you seriously wonder if you’ll make it to the classroom before your students do.

On the upside:  a commute is lovely when you can savor the early morning sunlight and admire the quilted clouds in the sky and the fog drifting over the hills and listen, as I did this morning, to a musical rendition of Mary’s Magnificat from the Gospel of Luke:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God  my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed…
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty. 
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and his descendants forever. (Luke 1: 46-55)

There is something so wonderfully, confidently subversive about these words.   Mary’s song is a statement of support for the little guy, for the disenfranchised, for the marginalized.  As a young woman living in an occupied country, Mary surely knew how it felt to be powerless.   And there is something about her song that says, God is full of surprises.  What is happening here and now is not the final chapter.  Her song also says, We are worth more than they tell us we are.  God knows that — and God wants us to know it, too.

And as I sat in the line of cars waiting to exit the freeway, I thought about how we are most like God when we see and celebrate the best in each other.  Every day presents us with hundreds of ways to do that, both with people we know, and with people we don’t know.  I sipped the dregs of my coffee and thought about what it means to see the worth in each person I encounter, and to let them see that I see it.  It seemed like a very good thing to keep in mind as I began the day.

Not every morning commute is this prayerful, believe me.  I think that’s a very good reason to remember the ones that are.

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