Wednesday, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time
Daily Readings: Micah 5:1-4 & Matthew 1: 1 – 16, 18 – 23
Reflection Date: September 8, 2021
The liturgical year commemorates the birthdays of only Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist. Precisely because of the significant role played by these persons in the life of Jesus. Mary is greatly honored today because she greatly collaborated with God in His plan of salvation. Saying, "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your WORD," Mary surrendered herself to God and offered her total availability to Him.
Mary was born as an ordinary child in a typical family. As an ordinary child, Mary became an extraordinary child of God with her great faith and generous disposition. Therefore, the birthday of Mary invites each of us to offer our unconditional co-operation to God despite difficulties and doubts.
The Church has celebrated Mary's birth since at least the sixth century. th Church chose a September birth because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (nine months earlier).
Scripture does not give an account of Mary's birth. However, the apocryphal Proto Evangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child that will advance God's plan of salvation for the world. Such a story (like many biblical counterparts) stresses the unique presence of God in Mary's life from the beginning.
St. Augustine connects Mary's birth with Jesus' saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. "She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth, the nature inherited from our first parents is changed." The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary's Son as the dawn of our salvation and asks for an increase of peace.
We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God's love and peace to the world. This is all true in a magnificent way in Mary. If Jesus is the perfect expression of God's love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.
Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary's birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth, we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large. "Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father's immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse" (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).
Joseph Cardozo SJ | Contributor