December 19, 2021

Service Title: Winter Offensive: Bring Down the Powerful, Lift Up the Lowly!
Speaker: Kristin Colangelo, National Union of the Homeless
Scripture: Luke 1:39-55

When Mary was visited by God she proclaims that God is magnified through her. Through Mary’s body and her life, God not only acts, but is magnified – made bigger and clearer for all to see. This week, leaders from the Freedom Church read this passage through the perspective of the poor and dispossessed, continuing the Winter Offensive and putting Christ back into Christmas!

Kristin Colangelo, National Union of the Homeless:

The Magnificat – I dug in deep to this scripture after reading the chapter of We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign by my Minister, Dr. Savina Martin, entitled: “Song of Revolutionary Mothers”. I feel like one of them raised me.

As I think and reflect on this scripture, it brings to mind a few things for me.

1. First, my own mother and being raised by her- a first-generation Italian- her strict upbringing training her also to be quiet, deferential, to be submissive; her transformation through the changes brought on by Vatican II; changes that ultimately led her and me to the National Union of the Homeless, when I was a teenager; where I followed her around, and got to meet leaders like Dr. Savina.

2. Second, I think of my faith and my love for the rosary and for justice, which I got from my mother. Especially the Hail Mary prayer based on this scripture, though now I know from reading Dr. Martin’s words, and reading the Bible, and hearing other people preach, that it was only the first lines of the revolutionary nature of Mary’s message which made it into that prayer. 

3. And third – i think of all of our revolutionary mothers. I think of the silencing of Mary in my life, as a Catholic, and the subsequent silencing or white-washing of so many fierce social justice warrior women on who’s legacy we build- leaders like Dottie Stevens, Annie Smart, Beulah Sanders, Johnnie Tillman, Leona Smith- just to name a few.

When I read this, I think of my fierce mother as well as many women and Mary; why are they silenced? Why is their message down-played, and re-framed, and distorted? Why is the revolutionary message of Mary’s cry for justice eliminated from so many faith bodies; similar to how the women leading National Welfare Rights Union, National Union of the Homeless and other revolutionary organizations had their demands for systemic change reduced to mere asks for a policy reform. Written by someone else, not us.

It seems to me because they were speaking to and against the same oppressive systems we are dying under today. Systems in which the hoarding of resources by a few results in unprecedented poverty and suffering by the masses. They cried out for justice as God’s will, speaking in direct conflict to the distorted narrative controlled by a ruling class of their time, which put the blame for poverty on those very people dying from it. 

At Freedom Church, National Union of the Homeless, and across our entire movement we know the response, the answer – to fight and organize against the systems Mary sings about. 

Organize to end the structures that National Welfare Rights Union and National Union of the Homeless fought to dismantle.

Lift up the silenced voices of our elders by distorted religious and moral narratives of the ruling class and Christian Nationalism that declares “the poor with always be with us” and that our poverty is our fault, and that we are just not right with God.

In their names, in the spirit of the revolutionary Mary and her song, we must organize, organize, organize. We must build the  political independence of the global working class to “drag these rulers from their thrones”, feed the hungry and lift up the humble. In their names and their spirit, we will fight to lift us all UP AND OUT OF POVERTY, NOW! 

And in my mother’s name; the child of immigrants, the devout Catholic working class mother of three, the fighter against all injustice she witnessed, a member of the National Union of the Homeless organizing for the immediate end to homelessness; in her name, with revolutionary perseverance and the spirit of Mary who raised up this fight as God’s will. In their names, we have a fight for justice and the realization of all our human rights. And understanding what that means! In the richest country in the world- a human right to housing is a house. An adequate, safe home. We go forward together – and not one step back! Amen and thank you.

Watch the full service from December 19, 2021. Join the Freedom Church of the Poor this Sunday at 6pmET/5pmCT/3pmPT and La Iglesia del Pueblo at 7:30pmET/6:30pmCT/4:30pmPT on the Kairos Center Facebook page.

This season, Freedom Church of the Poor has released an Advent study series built off of several entries from the We Cry Justice devotional. We hope it will be used to reinforce the Winter Offensive and engage communities, especially as we mobilize for a Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls, June 18th, 2022.