What We Need
September 8, 2021 (readings)
- Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Beth Van de Voorde
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, on this, your mother’s birthday, I come before you in prayer and ask her to be at my side. Mother Mary, teach me how to pray. Open my heart to hear and welcome the Father’s plan and to love Jesus a little bit more like you did.
Joseph’s Righteousness: Who better to teach us how to love and imitate Our Lady than her husband Joseph? It’s not difficult to imagine his confusion, sadness, or simple inability to grasp what was happening. We can also feel this way from time to time, right? Joseph was a man who sought to please God and live according to God’s commands. And it was his sincere seeking of what God wanted of him that moved him to decide to divorce Mary quietly; a costly decision, no doubt, but the best Joseph could fathom. His sleep must have been restless that night as he continually sought to know what God was asking of him.
Through the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit descended upon Mary so that Christ might become incarnate in her womb. The Holy Spirit came to St. Joseph in a dream to give him the grace he needed to discover God’s will in confusing circumstances. God does not leave us alone to make our way in the world and hope for the best. He comes out to meet us, he enters our lives (if we let him) and gives us what we need. He does not ask us to do the impossible, though he does the impossible himself through us.
God-with-Us: The name given God was Emmanuel, God-with-us. It’s not god-against-us, or god-indifferent-to-us, or even god-watching-but-far-away-from-us. His name is Emmanuel. This name that God has given to himself doesn’t just tell us what he does; it tells us who he is, something of his essence. He is a God who descends, who accompanies, and who unites. He brings us together, drawing all to himself (John 12:32). How the world changed when this truth entered it! Not a god hid in an idol on the shelf, nor one to be appeased by animal sacrifices, nor distant and unknowable in a cloud somewhere “out there.” How the world of Mary and Joseph changed when they welcomed this truth into their hearts and let God make them a family. How would our life change if we welcomed this truth anew today?
Conversing with Christ: Come, Holy Spirit. I trust you to give me what I need. Help me to be attentive to your voice, as both Joseph and Mary were. Help me to trust that even when I don’t understand, when my future seems hidden from me, or I don’t know what decision to make, that you will give me the grace I need. I do trust in you, Lord, and I give you the space in my heart and my life to do your will.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will strive to be attentive to your inspirations and act upon them, hand in hand with Mary.
For Further Reflection: There is a book by Jan Dobraczynski, available from a variety of sources, called The Shadow of the Father. It is a contemplation of the life of the Holy Family.
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