Friday, September 08, 2017

“Just What God Was Looking For” by Colleen O’Sullivan

The Lord says:  You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.
(Micah 5:1)

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…  Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. (Matthew 1:1, 16)

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

My dad loved doing genealogy. He spent years of his spare time working on his family tree. For a long time, I was more taken up with the here and now than interested in where I came from. But that changed as I grew older. The names on the chart became mnemonic devices for long, involved stories about my forebears. My father’s relatives left Ireland during the potato famine in the mid-1800’s and traveled to Canada. One of the children married and moved to the Dakota Territory. At some point, his wife disappeared. The four children were then put into a Catholic orphanage when the father decided to try his luck on the East Coast. Each of those children then made his or her way out here as they grew old enough to leave the orphanage. Each one reacted differently to the family history of desertion and abandonment. Their lives as adults were quite diverse and truly fascinating.

So, where years ago, I might have skipped over all the “boring” genealogy with which Matthew opens his Gospel, now I know the names are shorthand for all kinds of detailed stories. It’s interesting that Matthew includes women on this genealogy, an unusual phenomenon for the first century. If we take the time to look into each person mentioned, we realize that Jesus’ family tree has both good branches and unhealthy boughs. Not everyone listed worked tirelessly for God’s Kingdom. That, in and of itself, tells us a lot about Jesus and his love for us. Even knowing our capacity for sin and evil and the suffering they can cause, Jesus was willing to come and be one of us.

Today, we are celebrating the birthday of the last person on the list – Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary wasn’t famous or wealthy. As God said in the first reading, she was from a very lowly area that was anything but a world power.

Maybe we wonder why God, who could have chosen any woman in the world, chose this young girl from a nowhere place.  Wasn’t there someone better educated, from a more prosperous family, from a bigger, better town or city?  That’s our 21st-century attitude talking - where bigger is better and wealth and power serve as our gods.

God wasn’t looking for someone who’d had all the advantages money could buy. God found exactly what God was looking for in that young Mary, a person of faith who was willing to put aside her own plans to play her part in God’s bigger design for creation. Mary may have been afraid when the angel visited and told her what God was asking of her, but she was able to open her heart to God’s grace. She was everything God wanted in a mother for his Son. It’s amazing how real “gems” don’t always glitter.

How many little “gems” do we miss because we’re taken in by the world’s admiration of all that smacks of wealth, power and grandiosity? I have the feeling there are many faithful, beautiful souls out there whom we are missing because we’re so bedazzled by things that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the end.

Take a few minutes when you are praying to thank God for the unexpected “gems” who’ve come your way.

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