Daily Reflection
September 8th, 2007

Paul Mahowald, S.J.

St. John's Church
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We all love a birthday party! Our feast today is our Mother’s birthday so we celebrate this with love and gratitude.

The liturgists offer us a choice of two different readings for the first reading in the Mass and also a choice of Matthew’s entire genealogy of Jesus or an abbreviation of it.

Our reflections also could go in different directions. The Micah reading reminds us of the Christmas story. The Roman’s text reminds us of God’s hand in guiding this crucial period of time in salvation history. The long genealogy, with all those names ready to humble the best of lectors, is a list of male progenitors “interrupted” with five women -- each a wonderful story of God’s special care in developing the lineage of the Messiah.

But I would like to dwell in this reflection on the Church’s tradition and indeed, the scriptural and Judean tradition, of the nine-month period from conception to birth that is highlighted in today’s feast. This, of course, is crucial in our national dialogue about abortion.

This is September 8th, the feast of Mary’s birth, -- nine months earlier we celebrated Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. God blessed her with this “baptism” to prepare her to be the pure vessel to bear the Son of God at the proper time.

This proper time is the Incarnation of Our Lord and is announced to Mary in Nazareth in the feast of March 25th, called the Annunciation. Nine months later, Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

And weeks after the Annunciation we also celebrate Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth as we note again the tradition of the nine-month period of preparation for the birth of John the Baptist. At the annunciation the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary that her aged and barren cousin is in her sixth month of pregnancy. And the Church celebrates the Baptist’s birth on the 24th of June, three months after the angel declares that she is in her sixth month.

We are all familiar with these traditions and stories. But we live in a day and age when so many persons do not respect the pre-natal life that these stories from scripture describe.

We are challenged repeatedly with alternate moments when the fetus is to be considered a human being. These stories from scripture and the tradition of the Church clarify that we have always held that God’s gift of the immortal soul of a person is from the moment of conception.

Our prayers on this feast day remind us to pray for the end of legalized abortion and for true respect for life at all stages of life. So on this feast of Mary’s nativity, we ask Mary, who gave us life when she became the mother of Jesus, to inspire us all to respect life as a gift from God.

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