Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today we celebrate the birth of Mary. We celebrate because we have the advantage of Church history and tradition as well as scripture to serve as the base for our belief. So while her birth is not mentioned in scripture, church history– dating back to the end of the second century– teaches that Mary was born of Anne and Joachim who were childless and who thought they would not be able to have children. We also know from church teachings that Mary was born without original sin. God was preparing her to carry His Son.
The church offers us a choice in the readings today. One set is much shorter than the other. There is much value in reading the longer reading, especially the gospel which is the genealogy of Joseph’s family. One of the values of stopping and taking the time to read this long list of names is because it signifies the passage of time. The people were waiting for the Messiah – year after year; generation after generation. How tempting it must have been to give up on the whole idea, to think that it was never going to happen. But all along, God had a plan, and His plan did not just go back to the birth of Mary, but to her family and to the family of Joseph as the offspring of a family God called to help bring about the salvation of the world. And so we hear all the names, we recall the time that past and hopefully we ponder again the words of scripture “My time is not man’s time…”
This is especially important for us in today’s culture of immediate gratification. Let’s face it, most of us don’t like to wait for things. We think we’re doing great when we plan our calendar for the next month and we are challenged greatly when we have to wait for graduations, weddings, job promotions, and other events that take planning and work to achieve. So when we pray, it’s hard for us not to presume God is going to answer our prayers right now. We think this is when I need it! Whether we are praying for peace, for a cure for an illness, to reach an important decision, to get over the death of a loved one, for a new job or to pass a test or win a game, we want it now. What a lesson we can learn from the Israelites waiting for the Messiah. Let us follow their example, let us follow the example of Mary, our Blessed Mother, let us learn patience and trust in the wisdom of God.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.