Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reading: Micah 5:1-4a or Romans 8:28-30; Psalm 13:6ab, 6c; Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23 or 1:18-23
Picture: CC Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio)
It’s usually no surprise who gets to be the center of attention at birthday celebrations. The birthday celebrant, of course! After all, a birthday is a time to celebrate the gift of a particular life, and all the blessings that that life brings to the rest of us. And so, it may at first be more than a little surprising that on the day when we celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the spotlight seems to be on someone else. Although our readings do refer to the our Blessed Mother, we seem drawn not so much to focus our attention on her as to consider how the birth of Jesus Christ came about… The gospel provides us with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus, as well as a description of how Jesus came to be born in the household of David. What, we may well wonder, does all this have to do with Mary?
To answer this question, perhaps it’ll be helpful for us simply to follow the lead of our readings. Two things – two rather paradoxical aspects – may stand out for us when we consider how the eternal God takes flesh in time and space. The first is how Jesus’ arrival springs quite spontaneously from the natural course of human living. In Jesus, God doesn’t come among us as a spectacular and extraordinary revelation from on high. There’s no blinding flash of light, no loud booming noise, nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. There’s only an orderly succession of names – Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob – at the end of which is born the baby Jesus who is called the Christ. If there is consolation to be found in this aspect of Christ’s birth, it comes to us in the realization that we don’t have to be spectacular or extraordinary individuals to experience God. God seems to delight in showing up in the humblest of situations, among the most ordinary of people.
But that’s only one side of the story. There is another, perhaps apparently less palatable, but no less consoling aspect. It is summed up in the word interruption. Listening to the litany of names in Jesus’ genealogy, for example, aren’t we struck by how the list of men is (thankfully) punctuated – interrupted – at key points by women? There is Rahab, the mother of Boaz, Ruth, the mother of Obed, Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, and finally, the one whom we celebrate today, Mary, the mother of Christ, and our mother. And, as we well know, each of these women has their own story to tell. Theirs are stories of interruptions to the deceptively smooth flow of human life and history. Much like how Jesus’ birth comes as an unsettling – even shocking – interruption to the plans and expectations of saintly Joseph. He was betrothed to Mary, but before they lived together, she was found with child… What do these considerations tell us, if not that as ordinary and unspectacular as God’s coming often seems to be, it also often encounters us as an interruption to our best laid plans.
Perhaps here is where we finally come to some appreciation of what it is we are celebrating today. Perhaps here is where we are reminded of the great gift that Mary’s life brings us. In Mary, we find the indispensable quality for welcoming and experiencing God. In Mary, we find the admirable capacity to live an ordinary human life while remaining open to the many God-filled interruptions that characterizes it. For, as we heard in the first reading, whether it is in the smooth flow of daily living, or in its disturbing interruptions, all things work for good for those who love God… To celebrate Mary is to share and to rejoice in her gift of delighting in the ordinary yet surprising ways that God comes among us, the different ways in which Jesus continues to be born into our world.
How might we better celebrate our blessed Mother’s birthday today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 12:57 am