Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. As with all Marian feasts, this offers us an occasion to remember some of the important things we know and believe about Mary.
Mary was fully human, born to ordinary parents. She was conceived without original sin. It was through her “yes” that God brought salvation to humanity. She carried and gave birth to Jesus. She shared the joys of pregnancy with her cousin, Elizabeth. She and Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph, were parents to Jesus. She was a mother with feelings like all other mothers. She walked with Jesus and was with him through his passion and crucifixion. She buried Jesus and with the Apostles and others witnessed the resurrected Christ. Mary, was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. Mary is our advocate and we pray to her, not because she is divine-which she is not-but we pray asking her to be our advocate with God, to pray for us.
As we remember today the birth of Mary, it’s a good time to pause to think about what it means that she was fully human. It means that she likely played games with childhood friends, had favorite foods, had dreams and hopes. Certainly, it means that she felt deeply the joys and sorrows of being a mother. She knows what it means to feel the panic of losing a child in a crowd, and the anguish of standing by and watching a child die because she experienced these things.
Today’s readings tell us that Mary was the mother of Jesus and they spell out the genealogy, the ancestors of Joseph and through Joseph’s taking Jesus as his son, the ancestors of Jesus. There are theologians who question this genealogy and who think that it may be that Mary’s ancestry could parallel some of Joseph’s. In many ways, this is beside the point. It seems to me that the message of these passages is that in fact, Mary was human, born human and being human, gave birth to Jesus, thereby bringing God to us.
Most Catholics have a special devotion to Mary. We believe that Mary understands us and has compassion for us, especially in our sorrows. Whether it is through the Rosary, or novenas, or meditation, we remember that Mary was human, experienced motherhood, and we call on her to intercede for us.
As we approach the jubilee year of mercy, let us pray to Mary, that she will ask her Son to be merciful to us and to help us be merciful to one another.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.