On this joyful feast of Blessed Mary’s birthday, we turn to a profound short passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In it, Paul assures us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” We see a striking example of this truth in the Gospel, where we read of the many generations in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. From the time that God made a covenant with Abraham, through all the succeeding generations, he promised his people that he would be with them and bless them. At times it was easy enough to see how God was making “all things work for good,” such as during the glorious reign of King David. At other times, God must have seemed far away, and the people must have wondered how his plan could ever come about through the events which they were experiencing, such as during the Babylonian exile. But we can see now, looking back on all that history, how God was pursuing his plan the whole time. He was able to make all the things that happened work together to prepare for and bring about the coming of the Messiah, when the time was right.
We see over and over throughout the Bible that God’s ways are not our ways. He simply does not work in ways that we always understand or expect. In today’s reading from Micah, the prophet says that the promised Messiah will come from Bethlehem, a small and insignificant place – not the sort of place from which one would expect the ruler of Israel to come. Nevertheless, God chose this little town to be the birthplace of his Son.
In the Gospel we find that God is again working in a most unexpected way. He has chosen to be conceived in the womb of a simple virgin, betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth. Joseph is confused by this at first, naturally not able to understand how to cooperate with the work of God in light of Mary’s pregnancy. But he is humble and open to being led by God, so when he receives the message in a dream, he walks in faith. He is able to trust that God is working in all the events of his life, even when he does not understand how.
Today’s feast celebrates an earlier moment in the unfolding of God’s mysterious plan, Mary’s birth – an event not mentioned directly in the Bible. Mary, conceived without sin nine months ago (December 8), now comes forth into the world to begin her pilgrimage of faith. As an infant, she does not know it, but in the mind of God she was already foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. Elizabeth would later describe her as one who is most blessed among women because she “believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). Mary is our greatest model of trust that the Lord is at work in all the happenings and circumstances of life, even when she was not able to fully understand his plan. She knew that God works most powerfully in hidden, humble, insignificant persons and places. In faith, she opened herself completely to God, cooperating fully with him at every moment of her life.
Today is a wonderful day for us to entrust ourselves anew to Mary as her beloved children, and to allow her to lead us in her way of total confidence in God, as he works also in our lives in all his hidden, mysterious ways. Even if it seems small and insignificant, each present moment is of immense importance. God is working in each moment, and we can cooperate with him in each moment, no matter how ordinary it may seem. While we might at times grow impatient and even be tempted to doubt that God has a plan for our lives, if we accept the mystery of his plan, God will bring forth the life of Christ in us, following the pattern of what he did in Mary. Then through us others can also come to experience the joy of his eternal love. Together with Mary, all of us can rejoice and sing with one voice: “With delight I rejoice in the Lord!”
Looking back at my life, how have I experienced all that God has done in my life for my good? In my fallen nature, what makes it difficult to be humble, hidden, and insignificant? How I can I allow the present moment to be of immense importance for me?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 7. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.