FEAST of the NATIVITY OF MARY – WEEK 23 03 – Year I
Trust and Transformation
(Rm 8:28-30/Micah 5:2-5; Ps 13; Mt 1:1-23)
Have you had to make a difficult decision lately and felt very alone? Have you ever wondered where was God in a particular painful situation?
The readings on this feast of the Nativity of Mary invite us to trust in how God is working in our lives, and to be open to a process of transformation.
Regarding the trust we are to have in God’s providence, St. Paul assures us in the first reading “all things work together for good for those who love God.” We see that reality in the genealogy of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew who takes pains to present a perfect lineage of the Messiah composed of a series of fourteen generations.
Within that perfection, however, we find two women who really should not be included – Ruth, a Moabite widow who had grown up in Moab following other gods, and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah with whom David committed adultery. Yet within this imperfection, God was drawing out good and fulfilling God’s plan.
In the gospel, Mary is found to be pregnant outside of marriage, which put Joseph in a serious predicament of possible shame and social exclusion, if not worse. But Joseph trusted the angel who appeared to him in a dream and told him an improbable tale – this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was to be named Jesus, and would save the people from their sins. Joseph also put his faith in what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophets, accepted this strange situation, and became the foster-father of Jesus. Again, God was drawing good out of a painful situation and fulfilling God’s plan.
There is a suggestion here we should pay more attention to our own dreams and the power they have to reveal how God is at work in our own lives. There is one person who often comes for spiritual direction with two or three dreams to share. It is amazing how over the past few years, without exception, all her dreams, as disjointed and confusing as they might at first appear, upon closer examination, have been spot-on in affirming the progress she has made and the inner healing she has received, as well as serving as an encouragement for her to continue on her spiritual journey.
The second focus of the readings for this feast is transformation. Again, it is St. Paul who sets the tone in the first reading by proclaiming those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. That statement should stop us in our tracks as it demands to be taken seriously. Paul goes on to explain God also justifies us and glorifies us. We are destined for transformation into the likeness of Christ, and for glory!
St. Paul repeats the same conviction in 2 Cor 3:18 where he almost exults “and all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as if reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
This is called the process of divinization, or theosis, by our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Rite, who have been more open to this than we in the Western Church. Here is where trust and transformation come together – we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, as it worked in the original creation, as it hovered over Mary at her Immaculate Conception (and birth) and at the Annunciation, and as it descended on Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan.
Jesus as Messiah came to redeem and sanctify us, to forgive us and to heal us, through the power of that same Spirit. It is the Spirit who fills us with gifts that slowly dissolve our sin, sinfulness, painful emotions, negative attitudes and even our addictions – that transforms us into Christlikeness, our true destiny.
Rheanna (not her real name) found out she was pregnant with a child she did not want, and booked an abortion. She dared to share this with only her sister, who felt inspired to take her to a local pilgrimage. One of the intentions at the Eucharist they attended was for women who were considering terminating their pregnancy. Rheanna was stunned and her sister startled. They stared at each other in silent shock. Right after the mass, Rheanna went straight to the reconciliation room at the back of the shrine where I happened to be hearing confessions. She could barely whisper her situation. I was able to share my own experience of the guilt and pain other women who have had abortions shared with me they were still feeling. I encouraged her to trust in God’s love for her, and to choose to give life rather than take a life. She promised she would unbook the abortion. I could not help but feel like an instrument of the Holy Spirit in this situation, and hoped and prayed she would trust God and allow herself to be transformed into being a source of life, not death.
The Eucharist we celebrate involves both trust and transformation. We trust and believe this is God’s Word we proclaim, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, humble gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus.
We who receive are in turned transformed into the Body of Christ, missioned to be like Mary, to trust, to be open to transformation, and to give birth to Christ in all those we meet.