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Angels Homilies Saints

Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

Today’s readings

This is the beginning of a rather angelic few days for us Catholics.  Today we celebrate the feast of the archangels, and on Friday we will have the joy of honoring our guardian angels.  We celebrate the way the angels protect and guide us and keep us on the path to Christ.

Many people think that when people die, they become angels.  That’s not actually true.  Angels are a different order of creation from human beings.  There is a continuum of creation from things that are pure body, like a plant or a rock or a lump of dirt, all the way to those who are pure spirit, which would be the angels.  We humans are somewhere in between, being the highest and greatest of the bodies, and the lowest of the spirits.  Everything has its place in creation, and was created the way God intended it.

So today we celebrate the highest of the highest of the spirits: Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the archangels.  Each of these angels is specifically mentioned in Scripture.  Michael is mentioned in the book of Revelation, as the protector of the heavens and the defender of the people of God.  Michael fights the spiritual battle that is going on throughout the ages.  He is the patron of police officers, and the pope.  Gabriel is the announcer of good news, and we know him from the story of the Annunciation to Mary of her pregnancy.  Gabriel is the patron of communications workers.  Raphael is mentioned in the book of Tobit, in what is a beautiful story.  His purpose in that story is to protect Tobit on the journey to recover his family’s fortune and to introduce Tobit to Sarah, curing her of the despair she had over her last seven marriages, which all ended in death on the wedding night.  Raphael also cured Tobiah, Tobit’s father, of blindness due to cataracts.  Tobit and Sarah get married and live happily ever after, which is why it’s such a great story.  Raphael is the patron of travelers and healthcare workers.

We know a little bit about all these angels because of today’s feast. But those stories are not finished just yet.  The angels are still working among us, guiding us, healing us, defending us, and bringing us good news.  The angels are probably working through people you know.  They’re even working through you whenever you help someone else.  The truth is, I don’t think we would live very safe and happy lives if it weren’t for the angels among us.  Today we should thank God for Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and for all the people who cooperate with those angels in all their important work.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Whenever I start to hear this Gospel reading, I usually think, “Oh yeah, I know this one, about the Prodigal Son…” and then the story unfolds and that’s not it at all.  But reflecting on the story, there are certainly similarities.  The prodigal son certainly wasn’t wanting to do his father’s will.  He ran off on his own and, when things turned sour, he realize the grave error of his ways and returned home.  The other son in that story stayed and did the father’s work, but when he was invited in to the celebration, he objected and turned away.  Which one of them did the father’s will?

It’s not a perfect parallel and so the metaphor doesn’t really quite work, but you get the idea.  Both of these stories are about repentance, both of them are about God’s mercy, and both of them challenge the religious establishment of the time because they were not doing the Father’s will.

As we get to these late summer-early fall Liturgies of the Word, you might have noticed that there is a strong theme of God’s mercy, which invites repentance.  Three weeks ago, we heard about the concept of fraternal correction: if your brother sins, go to him, then if he doesn’t repent bring a few witnesses, and if that doesn’t work go to the church, and if that doesn’t work, well treat him as a Gentile or a tax collector.  I made the point that week that Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors with mercy and love, so again, we are talking about mercy.

The following week found Saint Peter trying to establish the rule on forgiveness.  How many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  He thought seven times was pretty generous.  But Jesus took it a magnitude greater: not seven times, but seventy-seven times: in a word, forgive your brother all the time.  We disciples are called to great mercy.

Then last week, we had the parable of the day laborers, with those who worked just an hour getting paid as much as those who worked the whole day long.  The point was that God treats everyone the same: at whatever hour of one’s life a sinner returns to God, that sinner will find mercy, same as everyone else.

So here we are, with the sons called to go out into the vineyard to work.  One of them flat out says forget it, I have better things to do, but then later repents of his sloth and the horrible way he treated his father and went instead.  The other son who was eager to say he’d go, later found the prospect of work a little more than he could bear so he didn’t go at all.  Jesus parallels this story to, once again, tax collectors and prostitutes.  These horrible sinners are seeing the light and even though they rejected the message early on in their lives, they responded to God’s call, through Saint John the Baptist, and repented.  But the religious leaders did no such thing.  Despite their equal need for mercy, they refused it, and called to repentance just like the tax collectors and prostitutes, they continued on their merry way to perdition.

But we can’t be like them.  We disciples have heard the Word of God and we know better.  We have at our disposal many tools of grace: the Sacrament of Penance, the Holy Eucharist, counsel of the Church, and so much more.  We have to see our own need for mercy and respond.  What’s important for us to see here is this: God extends his mercy and forgiveness and grace and calling to us all the time. We may respond, I think, in one of four ways. First, we may say no, and never change, never become what God created us to be. This happens all the time because we as a people tend to love our sins and love our comfort more than we love God. We often think we can fix ourselves on our own, without need of God’s mercy.  Or we may even think that our lives are not important enough for God to be bothered with helping us, or that our sins are so big that there’s no way he’d want to.  And sometimes, we just plain would rather not be inconvenienced or challenged to grow.

A second response: we might also say no, but later be converted. That’s a little better. Let’s be clear: there is no time like the present, and we never know if we have tomorrow. But God’s grace doesn’t stop working on us until the very end. So we can have hope because God does not give up on us.  That was what the first son did in today’s Gospel reading.  That was somewhat like the action of the Prodigal Son as well.  Mercy and grace work on us all the time, and when we respond, it’s effective.

In a third response, we might say yes, with all good intentions of following God, being in relationship with him, and doing what he asks of us. But perhaps we get distracted by life, by work, by our sins, by relationships that are impure, or whatever. And then we never actually become what we’re supposed to be.  Maybe that was what happened with the second son in today’s reading.

Or, finally, we might actually say yes and actually do it, with God’s grace. We might be people who are always open to grace and work on our relationship with God. Then that grace can lead to a life of having become what God wanted of us.  When we say yes, whether it’s right away or after a change of heart like in today’s Gospel, the grace of that moemtn puts us on the path to sainthood, which is where we are all supposed to be.  The model for that, of course, would be the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was able to say “yes” to God’s plan for her and the world right away.  Saying “yes” to God might seem remote, particularly if you are struggling with habitual sin or addiction, but mercy holds the door open to sainthood all the time.  We just have to answer the door.

Today’s Gospel is a good occasion for a deep examination of conscience. Where are we on the spectrum?  Have we nurtured our relationship with God and said yes to his call, or are we somewhere else?  And if we’re somewhere else, what is it that we love more than God?  What do we have to do to get us on the right path?  We know the way of righteousness.  We know the path to heaven.  We just have to make up our minds and change our hearts so that we might follow Jesus Christ, our way to eternal life.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You know, I think Herod was asking the right question.  Sure, he was asking it for all the wrong reasons, but still, it is the right question.  And that question is, “Who is Jesus?”

What Herod was hearing about Jesus is pretty much what the disciples told Jesus when Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?”  Elijah, or one of the prophets, or maybe even John the Baptist.  But Herod was the one who killed John so he knew that couldn’t be it, so who is he really?  Herod kept trying to see him, and of course, he’d have more than ample opportunity soon enough, after Jesus is arrested.

So we have the question too.  Oh, we know well enough – intellectually – who Jesus is, but we still have to answer that question in our hearts.  Who is Jesus for us?  We know he is not just some prophet; that he is not like anyone who lived before or after him.  But have we stopped being intrigued by the question, have we lost our fascination with Jesus?  Herod kept trying to see Jesus, and it’s the right instinct, or at least it is for us.  We have to keep trying to see him too, whether that takes us to a rereading of the Gospels or to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or to contemplative prayer.  Whatever the case, fascination with Jesus is the right way to go, and we have to let ourselves be intrigued by the question again.  Who is Jesus for us?

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Homilies Saints

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Today’s readings

Saint Matthew’s call to be an Apostle, and a Saint, was highly improbable.  And that’s good news for us, because our own calls are improbable too. Our God does amazing things with the improbable!  Matthew was a tax collector, working for the Roman occupation government.  His task was to exact the tax from each citizen.  Whatever he collected over and above the tax was his to keep.  Now the Romans wouldn’t condone outright extortion, but let’s just say that they weren’t overly scrupulous about what their tax collectors were collecting, as long as they got paid the proper tax.

So Matthew’s reception among the Jews was quite like they might accept any other kind of bad news.  The Pharisees were quick to lump men like Matthew with sinners, and despised them as completely unworthy of God’s salvation. But Jesus had different ideas.

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

Go and learn the meaning of the words,

I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

So it’s amazing for us to celebrate the call of a man who was anything but worthy. Because he was called, we know that our own calls are authentic, unworthy as we may be. Just as the Matthew spread the Good News by the writing and preaching of the Gospel, so we are called to spread the Good News to everyone by the witness of our lives. Matthew’s call is a day of celebration for all of us sinners, who are nonetheless called to do great things for the Kingdom of God.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I wonder if you find this Gospel parable a little aggravating.  I have heard it many times now, and I certainly have bristled with aggravation on occasion when I’ve heard it.  And, as I often say, it’s good when the Gospel gets us a little riled up, because that means God is doing something in us that invites us to salvation.

Certainly the people hearing it in Jesus’ day would have been aggravated when they heard this parable too.  They knew the economics of day laboring better than we do (although day laborers are by no means extinct in the twenty-first century).  The very thought that those who labored hard all day, in the sun, would get the same as those who worked but an hour was unthinkable.  I dare say we find it that way too.

So it’s important for us to notice, first of all, that this is not intended to be a parable about justice.  Jesus tells us right away: “The kingdom of God is like a landowner…”  So the parable is not about justice, but instead it is an illustration of the workings of the Kingdom of God.  In one sense, that’s comforting, because Jesus is not telling us that we should run our businesses with lavish disregard for economic wisdom.  I would be hard pressed to be convinced to even run the parish that way.

But now let’s think about the fact that the parable is about the Kingdom of God.  Jesus was delivering a message to the religious establishment: they didn’t have the monopoly on the kingdom.  They thought they had earned God’s reward, and Jesus tells them it doesn’t work that way.  It’s not about what you’ve done or how long you’ve been doing it, it’s about God’s mercy and love that is poured out with lavish generosity.  They would have found that pretty irritating.  I think we know that in our heads, but when it comes to how this parable plays out, it reveals that we may not have accepted it in our hearts.

Do you mean to tell me that those of us who have worked hard and long for the mission and spent our days and nights at church might inherit just as much as someone who ignores the Gospel and converts on his or her death bed?  Well, yes.  That very well could be.  Many years ago now, I heard about the deathbed conversion of actor John Wayne.  I remember thinking at the time, “Gee, that’s convenient.”  Here he may well have led a life of excess and who knows what all debauchery and only on his deathbed was he willing to form a relationship with God.  Here those of us disciples have been working hard at it all this time, and yet some can get it just at the last minute?  That makes me bristle with thoughts of unfairness.  But, as the prophet Isaiah tells us today, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and our ways are not God’s ways.

And who am I to judge John Wayne, or really anyone?  It’s important to note that we cannot pass judgment on anyone.  I don’t know the details about John Wayne’s life and certainly not about his relationship with the Lord.  Who knows if a conversion wasn’t something he had been looking forward to for a long time and he didn’t know how to make it happen.  Maybe he had, in fact, been kept from hearing the Gospel in his formative years and so didn’t have the basis for a life of faith that many of us do.  The important thing is that his desire was granted, in the waning moments of his life, and God is generous.  That’s all we need to know.

Let’s face it, none of us wants God to be too strict an accountant.  No matter how hard we may try to be good disciples, we often fall short in big ways and small ways.  God gives us second chances all the time.  And we are blessed that we worship a generous, or we’d all of us be in a world of hurt, without exception.  

If anything, even us cradle Catholics should be grateful for this message, because if we are honest, our tiniest sins are a grave offense to Almighty God, who is goodness itself, and who gives us everything we need in this life and in the next.  We who have gravely offended God by our sins need those second chances too, and we have them.

Another good way to think about this parable on this Catechetical Sunday, is that the time to foster a relationship with Jesus isn’t limited to the beginning of the day, or the beginning of our life.  We are called to form a life-long relationship of learning, and growing in relationship, with the God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine.  Every hour of the day, every stage of our life, is an opportunity to let Jesus come and get us, and put us to work in the field of the faith.

The last line of the Gospel might sound unfair, but ultimately, I think, it is hopeful: “The first will be last and the last will be first.”  Let that sink in for a minute: whether you’re first or last, you still have the possibility of life eternal.  It doesn’t matter when you get there, or where you were in line, or if someone cut in ahead of you.  There is always enough grace and mercy to go around.  There are always dwellings for us in the kingdom of heaven.  None of us will be left without the love of God, if only we approach it, if only we accept it, if only we don’t get caught up in thinking about who gets in ahead of us.  News doesn’t get any better than that.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

We’ve all heard this gospel parable about the sower and the seeds dozens of times. We know, then, that the seeds are the Word of God: not just some words, but Word with a capital “W,” which is Jesus himself, God’s eternal Word, spoken to bring life to a world dead in sin.  We know that the seeds are that presence of Christ which fall on hearts that are variously rocky, or thorny, or rich and fertile.  We’ve heard the parable, with Jesus’ own explanation, as well as homilies about it, so many times.

But what got me wondering as I read the parable in preparation for this morning’s Mass, was why – why are we hearing this parable now?  The liturgical cycle usually conforms to the calendar, more or less, and so why this parable about sowing seeds now, right on the verge of autumn? Nobody in their right mind sows seeds this late in the year, certainly not in our climate!

But God does.  He sows the Word among us all the time: every day and every moment.  It’s not just once for the season, and if the seeds don’t grow, then try again next year maybe.  He is constantly sowing the seeds in us, urging us to make of our hearts rich, fertile soil for the Kingdom.  And we do that by enriching the soil through reception of the Sacraments, participating at Mass, enlivening our prayer life, being open to the Word.

The Sower is out sowing the seeds of his Eternal Word all the time.  Let’s give him fertile ground, that we can yield a rich harvest.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Simon the Pharisee had committed a grave error in hospitality, and a serious error in judgment. In those days, when a guest came to your home, you made sure to provide water for him or her to wash their feet, because the journey on foot was often long and hot and dirty, and it was pretty much always made on foot. But Simon had done no such thing for Jesus.

Simon’s intentions were not hospitable; rather he intended to confront Jesus on some minutiae of the Law so as to validate his opinion that Jesus was a charlatan. He judged the woman to be a sinner, and reckoned Jesus guilty of sin by association. But Jesus is about forgiveness. He didn’t care about the woman’s past; he just knew that, presently, she had need of mercy. Her act of love and hospitality, her posture of humility, her sorrow for her sin, all of these made it possible for Jesus to heal her.

But the one who doesn’t think he is in need of healing can never be healed. And so that’s our examination of conscience today. Are we aware of our need for healing, or have we been thinking we are without sin, without brokenness, without openness to God’s mercy? If so, our moments of reflection today need to guide us to honest and open acceptance of God’s mercy, and a pouring out of the best that we have in thanksgiving.  Like the repentant woman, we need to humble ourselves, and pour out our sorrow for our sins.

We are offered so much mercy and forgiveness for our many sins. Let us love much so that we might receive the great mercy our Lord wants to give us.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.”  So says the wisdom-writer Sirach in today’s first reading.  His words set up well the Gospel today, and the overall emphasis of forgiveness as a powerful tool for the disciple.  The disciple would do well to abandon wrath and anger, and hold fast to forgiveness: eagerly seeking it for himself, and freely giving it to others.  These readings come on the heels of what we heard last week, which was about the way the Christian disciple resolves conflict.  Forgiveness is the natural conclusion to that discussion.

But forgiveness, sadly, doesn’t seem to come as naturally to us as it does to our God.  Sinners though we are, we seem to always gravitate toward wrath and anger.  You can see it well in just about every corner of our world right now.  We don’t have interesting conversations about political issues any more: we have wrath and anger.  In an election year like this one, campaigns no longer provide us with convincing reasons to vote for a candidate; instead they numb us to everything so that the truth can hardly be found.  Even a pandemic, which should galvanize us and make us all want to seek the common good, has only been weaponized to divide us further.  All we see is wrath and anger, and I don’t know about you, but I’m sure weary of it.

Well, friends, the way that we move forward has to do with forgiveness.  Those who hug wrath and anger tight will never be at peace; peace only comes from forgiving and letting go of the poison.  So how do we forgive?

In the Gospel, Peter wants the Lord to spell out the rule of thumb: how often must we forgive another person who has wronged us?  Peter offers what he thinks is magnanimous: seven times.  Seven times is a lot of forgiveness.  Think about it, how exasperated do we get when someone wrongs us over and over?  Seven times was more than the law required, so Peter felt like he was catching on to what Jesus required in living the Gospel.  But that’s not what Jesus was going for: he wanted a much more forgiving heart from his disciples: not seven times, but seventy-seven times!  Even if we take that number literally, which we shouldn’t, that’s more forgiveness than we can begin to imagine.  But the number here is just to represent something bigger than ourselves: constant forgiveness.  The real answer to Peter’s question is that we don’t number forgiveness: just as our God forgives us as many times as we come to him in repentance, so we should forgive others who do that with us.

The parable that Jesus tells to illustrate the story is filled with interesting little details.  The servant in the story owes the master a huge amount of money.  Think of the biggest sum you can imagine someone owing another person and add a couple of zeroes to the end of it.  It’s that big.  He will never live long enough or earn enough money to repay the master, no matter what efforts he puts forth.  So the master would be just in having him and everything he owned and everyone he cared about sold.  It still wouldn’t repay the debt, but it would be more than he would otherwise get.  But the servant pleads for mercy, and the master gives it.  In fact, he does more than he’s asked to do: he doesn’t just give the servant more time to pay, he forgives the entire loan!  That’s incredible mercy!

On the way home, however, the servant forgets about who he is: a sinner who has just been forgiven a huge debt, and he encounters another servant who owes him a much smaller sum than he owed the master – for us it would be like ten or twenty dollars.  But the servant has not learned to forgive as he has been forgiven: he hands the fellow servant over to be put into debtor’s prison until he can repay the loan.  But that in itself is a humorous little detail.  In prison, how is he going to repay the loan?  He can’t work, right?  So basically the fellow servant is condemned for the rest of his life.  For twenty dollars.

We don’t have to do a lot of math or theological thinking to see the injustice here.  The servant has been forgiven something he could never repay, no matter how long he lived.  But he was unwilling to give that same forgiveness to his fellow servant; he was unwilling to give him even a little more time to repay the loan, which the other servant certainly could have done.  That kind of injustice is something that allows a person to condemn him or herself for the rest of eternity.  The disciple is expected to learn to forgive and is expected to forgive as he or she has been forgiven.  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We can’t just say those words when we pray and then withhold mercy from our sisters and brothers; we actually have to forgive those who trespass against us.

This call to a kind of heroic forgiveness takes on a new meaning when we consider the state of our world today.  We still have conflicts all over the world.  In fact, I’ve read that as many as a third of the nations of the world are currently involved in some sort of conflict.  And we owe a great debt to those who are fighting to keep our nation safe.  But I don’t think we can stop with that.  We will never find the ultimate answer to terrorism and injustice in human endeavor.  We have to reach for something of more divine origin, and that something, I think, is the forgiveness that Jesus calls us to in today’s gospel.

And it starts with us.  We have been forgiven so much by God.  So how willing have we then been to forgive others?  Our reflection today might take us to the people or institutions that have wronged us in some way.  Can we forgive them?  Can we at least ask God for the grace to be forgiving?  I always tell people that forgiveness is a journey.  We might not be ready to forgive right now, but we can ask for the grace to be ready.  Jesus didn’t say it would be easy, did he?  But we have to stop sending people to debtor’s prison for the rest of their lives if we are going to honor the enormous freedom that God’s forgiveness has won for us.

Every time we forgive someone, every time we let go of an injustice that has been done to us, the world is that much more peaceful.  We may well always have war and the threat of terrorism with us.  But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.  That doesn’t mean we have to participate in it.  It certainly doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate it.  Real peace, real change, starts with us.  If we choose to forgive others, maybe our own corner of the world can be more just, more merciful.  And if we all did that, think of how our world could be significantly changed.

As the Psalmist sings today: “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.”  So should the Lord’s disciples be.

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Homilies Ordinary Time

Friday of the Twenty-third Week of Ordinary Time: Anniversary of 9-11

Today’s readings

When I hear today’s Gospel reading, I think about my dad. When he was alive, he was a guy who seemed to know everyone.  Anywhere we went, he’d find someone he knew, even if we were away on vacation!  But Dad wouldn’t just know their names, he’d also know something about them.  He would know their talents, stuff they were good at; he’d also sometimes know if they were going through some kind of difficulty or hard time.  But most often, he always was able to see what was good in them.

That’s the kind of thing I think Jesus wants us to do in our Gospel reading.  He wants us to know each other as brothers and sisters, instead of seeing everyone’s faults and sins and downfalls.  Because we all have faults and sins and downfalls!  And if we focus on those things, we’ll never be the children of God we were created to be, and we will never have peace.  Jesus uses the hyperbole of seeing a splinter in the other person’s eye but missing the wooden beam in our own.  We all have sins and downfalls, but we all have grace and blessing.  We’ve got to look for the grace and blessing, look for the best in people, because that’s what makes us children of God; that’s what unites us as sisters and brothers.

Nineteen years ago today, right around this time in the morning, I was in my room in seminary.  That was the day I witnessed, on television, the horrible events that we now call the 9-11 tragedy.  I will never forget that horrible moment.  Over the course of the following days, we came to know that over three thousand people died that day, including many police and fire fighters.  And our world has changed a lot ever since: there is more security when you get on an airplane, more security everywhere, it seems.  And if we would listen to what Jesus is telling us today, maybe things like this wouldn’t have to happen.

Sadly, the root of all of the tragedies like this, is that we don’t see each other as brothers and sisters.  Because if we did, we wouldn’t have terrorism, or racism, or crime in our streets, or any of the many sad things we hear about in the news each day.  We have to learn to take the wooden beams out of our eyes so that we can see each other as brothers and sisters.  Only then will we become everything that God intends for us.

Today on this nineteenth anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, we should do a lot of things.  We should study what happened that day so that we understand the issues and continue to work to change our world for the better.  We should remember those who gave their lives that day, especially those who tried to help the victims, and we should pray for ourselves and all people that we can become peaceful people who love the Lord and see each other as brothers and sisters, without all those splinters or beams in our eyes.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Matthew’s account of the genealogy of the Lord is unusual for many reasons, but most notable among those reasons, and the reason it was chosen for Mass today is because it contained the name of five women. This might not seem all that amazing to us today, but back in Matthew’s day, genealogies almost never contained the names of women. So Matthew is clearly telling us something important by including their names.

The women mentioned include Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Four of them were women of the Old Testament and the last, of course, cooperated in bringing about the New Testament. Tamar was a childless widow whose brother-in-law, to whom she had been given in marriage after her husband’s death, refused to provide her with offspring. So she had to pretend to be a harlot and seduce Judah in order to have a child. Rahab actually was a harlot in Jericho. She hid and protected the spies of Joshua, so the Israelites protected her when they ambushed Jericho. Ruth was a daughter-in-law who cared so much for her mother-in-law that she accompanied her on a dangerous journey to Israel after her family died. Ruth is known for her devotion. Bathsheba was seduced by King David, who covered up the affair by arranging to have her husband Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. She became the mother of Solomon.

All of these women represent the struggle and the blessing the Israelites had with God and his salvation. Tamar represented the struggle to follow the law and to protect the widows, orphans and aliens as God intended. Rahab represented the giving of the land to the people Israel. Ruth represented the devotion and faithful love of the Lord. Bathsheba represented the struggle with faithfulness, and the blessing of repentance. 

And from all of these, we finally come to our Patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman whose faith and willingness to cooperate with God’s plan made possible the salvation of all the world. Today we celebrate her Nativity, the traditional date of her birth, exactly nine months having passed since her Immaculate Conception on December 8th. 

Every single birth is a sign of hope in our world, and therefore a cause for great celebration. Our world may be in a bad place, plagued by war, terror, and an actual plague, and dark from sin – both societal sin and our own personal sin. But birth brings joy because it is a sign of God’s wanting the world to continue to bring salvation to all people. Mary’s birth in particular stands out prominently among us because of the grace she received from God who chose her to be mother of His Son.

The Byzantine Church Daily Worship proclaims well the joy that we have on this feast of Mary’s birth: “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.” 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.