The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Micah 5:1-4a; Matthew 1:1-16.18-23)
It has been noted that the Church does not celebrate many birthdays. Hallmark would go broke if it had the Church as its only client. In fact only three birthdays are recognized in the calendar of saints: Jesus’, of course, on Christmas Day; St. John the Baptist’s, whose birth parallels Jesus’, on June 24, almost to the day six months before Jesus’; and Mary’s whose day is today, nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
It should be asked, why does the Church privilege Mary by celebrating her birthday? After all, cynics might object, she only gave birth to Jesus. But she also raised him and cared about him. The gospels relate how she came looking for Jesus when he was carrying out his ministry. There are also New Testament accounts of Mary at the cross (the Gospel of John) and among his disciples receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles). But the selection of today’s gospel hints at a deeper reason. Mary was of the line of extraordinary Hebrew women of faith that we hear about in today’s gospel. She kept the faith, clung to it despite hardship, and saw to it that Jesus knew it.
We do not pray to Mary as we pray to God. We ask her to intercede for us before God. This is not beating around the bush. Rather, it provides reason for us to not stop praying. For many, because of their childhood experience, it is easier to talk to Mary than to God. Just as they found it easier as children to ask their mothers for a favor than to approach their fathers, they find Mary more accessible today. Like the Father, she is there to help us. Celebrating her birthday, we have a favorable moment to beseech Mary again for God’s assistance.