8 September 2009 Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Micah 5, 1-4 or Rom 8, 28-30; Psalm 13; Matthew 1, 18-23
At the birthday of our Mother Mary, we are surprised that the Gospel is not about Mary’s birth, but her being Mother to Jesus, Her son. I guess the celebration of the birthday of Mary is closely connected with her being mother to Jesus, and being mother to us, her children. The significance of her birth is seen in the significance of Jesus in our salvation. Without Jesus, salvation could not have been possible. Without Mary’s “Yes” Jesus would not have been born. So today, we ask this question, “What does it mean to be mother?” How is Mary mother to me? We first look at our experiences of our mothers. One mother puts it:
“I am reminded of one of the main features of my mothering style. Like my own mother did, I talk to my children a lot! Since they were babies I have instinctively blanketed my three sons with songs, humming, whistling, and words. My mother’s theory went something like this: “You never know when your children are listening or what they will hear. So I say everything several ways, over and over. Perhaps one of the times or ways I speak will get through.”
I view my monologues with my children as a big part of my role as transmitter of values, and both general and specific operating instructions for life. I dare say that my children are not in the dark about my views, feelings, opinions, and wishes for them about almost anything from proper table manners to proper sexual conduct.”
Raising moral children, guiding them through their struggles, comes from instruction and teaching. And, as that mother said, it comes from saying the same things over and over again. Wise parents provide this sort of training all the time. They teach their children to act with virtue and thereby develop the ability to do so on a regular basis. Here are some examples of everyday advocacy:
"Anak, alam kong mas gusto mong maglaro kasama ng iyong mga kaibigan, pero meron kang assignment. Gawin mo muna ang assignment, pagkatapos, pwede ka nang maglaro. Makikita mo, kong tiis lang, matatapos mo rin yan." (I know you want to play with your friends, but you have to do your assignment. After that, you can play.)
"Alam kong ayaw mong isuot ang binigay ng lola mo sa iyo, pero mas mabuti kung pasalamatan mo pa rin siya." (I know you do not like what your grandmother gave you, but it would still be nice to thank her.)
"Alam kong may mas exciting na gimmick na gusto mong puntahan kasama ng iyong barkada. Kaya lang, nakapag-commit ka na sa activity mo sa iyong organization. Kailangan pumunta ka doon sa iyong apostolate. Mas mahalaga ang iyong commitment." (I know going out with your friends is more exciting than your organization’s apostolate, but go and fulfill your commitment.)
If you’re a parent or at least like a parent, would you say things like that to your children? If you don’t, what kind of message are you sending? It’s OK to break your commitments, your word, when something better comes along? Later on, when their marriage breaks up, you will wonder, where did they learn that? Parents don’t have to be perfect to teach by telling. They can say to their children, “I do the best I can. I don’t know everything. I’ve made my share of mistakes. You’ll make some, too. But I want to tell you what I’ve learned.”
At one time, parents used to try to have all the answers. But children resent and reject that approach. Now a lot of parents, unsure of themselves in a world of diversity and relativism, have lost their confidence and have gone to the other extreme: they don’t give any answers. As a result, kids suffer from a lack of guidance and grow up without any values to live by.
Parents can tell their children what they believe without playing God. They can guide and instruct, listen and advise. Says one mother: “I believe in telling kids what you think is important, what you think can help them in their lives. You have to catch them at the right time, and you can never be sure when that is. You may have to say it a lot before they start taking it in. But they will remember it. They will say, ‘My mother always used to tell me…’”
Here is how people remember what their parents “used to say”:
My mother always said, “Dare to be different. If people are painting themselves yellow and jumping in the pond, feel perfectly free to paint yourself green and walk backwards. Never mind what the rest of the world is doing; you are your own person.” She also taught us that we were sacraments and our lives were a prayer.
My father always emphasized that to help a friend in need was one of the best things you could do in life. This has always been a rewarding experience for him. It has been an equally rewarding experience for me when I have helped friends in need.
Our children don’t know because no one has told them. They are desperate for guidance. When it’s given, consistently and repeatedly, you get someone like Michael Jordan. His father, as you might recall, was murdered in the summer of 1993. Before that happened, Michael said this to columnist Bob Greene:
“My heroes are and were my parents.…It wasn’t that the rest of the world would necessarily think they were heroic. But they were the adults I saw constantly, and I admired what I saw. If you are lucky, you grow up in a house where you can learn what kind of person you should be from your parents. And on that count, I was very lucky. It may have been the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.”
To Michael Jordan, good parents meant as much to him as his incomparable basketball skill. Remember, our children achingly want adults in their lives as they negotiate through the world, someone to teach them the way of righteousness.
This is what Mary does. She leads us to Jesus. She is NOT GOD, but leads us to God. Through her life, she has raised and guided Jesus, and how Jesus is reflects her care for him. Mary has been a good parent to us: though her various apparitions, she warns us, tell us what to do, and advise us like a mother does. It is up to us, whether we follow or believe. The birth of Mary therefore is not a sentimental celebration: it reminds us of two things: First that we are never alone and second, that there are things we have to do, things our mothers teach us.