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The Miracle of Mary
A Reflection on the Celebration of the Nativity of Mary (Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23) - 8 September 2023
(Internet Image from The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God)
God protects and governs by His providence all things which He hath made, “reaching from end to end mightily, and ordering all things sweetly.” (Wisdom 8:1) For “all things are bare and open to His eyes,” (Heb. 4:13) even those which are yet to be by the free action of creatures.
(Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, I)
Today’s reading begins with what for some lectors is a nightmare, St Matthew’s genealogy of our Lord. I love it. Every name conjures in my mind a tremendous story of a saint, a sinner, or a sinner that became a saint. It is like sitting around at a family gathering remembering and telling stories of our famous and infamous relatives. I think all of us feel a connectiveness to our family through those stories that bind us together. This is perhaps why St Mathew begins his Gospel this way, for the genealogy of Christ is also our story. Despite every twist, turn, detour, and deviation, through sin and conversion and back again, that mark our life’s journey, God is constantly working, without ever infringing upon our freedom, to save us in miraculous ways.
Although we read the genealogy of Joseph, we are also reading the story of Mary. The people in first century Jewish small towns tended to marry within their own clan and so there are many intersections between and amidst families. Early Church Fathers testify that Mary was of the line of David and base their testimony an unbroken oral tradition. St Matthew also makes it clear that God intervened in this genealogy miraculously forming in Mary the perfect vessel through which our redemption can be accomplished. He writes;
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:22–23 NABRE)
This does not for a second imply that Mary was in some way, shape, or form devoid of free-will. Love always allows a choice; the freedom to accept or reject that love. Mary, with complete freedom and determination, always perfectly responded God’s will. In every circumstance, Mary lives out the words of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is why we celebrate the birth of Mary and the miracle of her first and ever constant “yes” to God. It is in this “yes,” that is the beginning of our salvation.
Sadly, so many steadfastly gloss over the miracle of Mary and her role in God’s plan of salvation. How often have I heard, I don’t need “a Mary,” I have Jesus. The documents of Vatican II firmly attest to the miracle of Mary, our blessed Mother. Unfortunately, after Vatican II, there was in some places a very misguided effort to remove images of Mary from Catholic worship spaces. Image the relegation of the image of the Mother of God, chosen by God, “full of grace,” to a closet, parish attic, or dusty forgotten corner. Is this how Jesus would have viewed and loved His mother? Certainly not!
Jesus carried in His humanity all that is Mary and that crazy family tree. God specially prepared Mary as the vessel in which to pour His vast and incomprehensible divinity. In this, Mary is the sum of all the salvation history that came before her. She is the best of Israel. Because of, and sometimes despite of Mary’s family genealogy, God works a wonder, a miracle, in Mary. It is in Mary’s womb and because of her “yes,” that heaven and earth meet in a salvific and miraculous way. The angel Gabriel hails Mary at the moment of their meeting as already “full of grace.” He does not say you will be “full of grace,” but instead you are and always were, from the moment of your conception, special.
Today we celebrate the birth of Mary, the best of humanity, a miracle. In this we honor someone whom Jesus loved so intently that amidst His pain and suffering on the cross, His last words are for the care of His Mother. Then, in giving Mary to St John, the faithful, God gives His own mother, a miracle, to us. On this day of celebration, reflect on the miracle of Mary and with her strength:
Model Mary’s “yes.” Mary miraculously gave herself to God in her “yes.” This is a “yes” that brought about our Salvation. As you pray “Our Father, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” mean it! Make Love’s will your own.
Imitate Mary’s trust and devotion. Mary never strayed from her mission, even though she did not fully understand it. She is steadfast in love for God, her Son, her Savior. Though we may not fully understand the circumstances of our life, listen to Mary’s words at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you.” (John 2:5 NABRE)
Take on Mary’s zeal for evangelism and unrepressed joy. In every aspect of your life unhesitatingly and boldly proclaim the greatness of the Lord…. and allow your spirit to rejoice in God your savior … the Mighty One is doing great things for you and holy is His name. (Luke 1:46–49) Tell the world!
Today we rejoice in God’s great providence in giving us, despite our sin, the miracle of Mary, the Mother of God and in Baptism, our Mother. Let her yes to God be our yes. Yes, hail Mary full of Grace! Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death!
Today the Virgin is born, tended, and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages. (Saint Andrew of Crete, bishop (Oratio 1: PG 97, 806-810))
McNabb, Vincent, ed. The Decrees of the Vatican Council. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1907. Print.
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary. Orthodox Church in America. (n.d.). https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2014/09/08/102541-the-nativity-of-our-most-holy-lady-the-mother-of-god-and-ever-vi