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Nov 6, 2014

Advent Reflection 1: The Mothers of Christ

Thomas Smith

Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. It spans the spiritual life, inviting us to prayerful penitence and joyful anticipation. In this four-part series, I want to focus our attention on some often overlooked aspects of this amazing season and the even more amazing story behind it.

The Mothers of Christ

madonna-of-the-rosary(1)Advent is a time I grow in my appreciation for Mary, the Mother of Christ and motherhood in general. In the sweeping story of salvation there were many mothers that made Christ’s adventus (arrival) possible for us.

Matthew’s genealogy highlights some of Christ’s special mothers (Matthew 1:1-17). We tend to avoid or skip over genealogies, thinking they are about as interesting as reading a column of the phone book (do people still have phone books?). The procession of names isn’t intended to be a comprehensive genealogy, but rather a selection of important people, many of them serving as a clue to Jesus’ mission and message.

Breaking with traditional genealogies, Matthew highlights four female figures, each an ancestral mother of Christ that lead us to Mary. Instead of choosing the famous matriarchs like Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, the Gospel writer chooses women whose lives were filled with shame and pain (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba). They endured prostitution, widowhood, and even rape. They were “outsiders,” foreigners brought into God’s family through faith and the Lord’s providence. They are a revelation of God’s love in Christ that would soon break into our world to bring healing and wholeness, setting us free from our shameful pasts. Their stories reach their fulfillment in the final mother of the genealogy: Mary. In her Magnificat, Our Lady speaks of God’s “mercy on those who fear him in every generation” like Rahab of Jericho and Bathsheba the Hittite. She praises the Lord who has “lifted up the lowly” like Tamar and “filled the hungry with good things” as he did for Ruth (Luke 1:46-55).

There are many lessons we could draw from this genealogy. Let me propose just a couple for the Advent season.

  • How may this season of Advent invite me to give Jesus and Mary all the “messiness” of my personal history: all of the brokenness, pain, and shame and to trust that it can be redeemed and to find wholeness in Christ?
  • Ask the Lord to show you the “mothers” around you that have Christ hidden within, like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Reach out to them in concrete ways with generosity and mercy.
  • Thank the Lord for the many “mothers” the Lord has made part of your own saving story. If they have passed on, pray for their souls. If they are alive, make a point to do something special for them this Advent season.
  • Finally, in all the busyness that is about to come upon us, carve out some special time for Mary in your spiritual life. At the Cross, she became the Mother of all the faithful (see Evangelic Gaudium 285). Rest in her maternal arms, bring her your needs, and ask her to fill you with her love, tenderness, and joy this season.

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  • Didn’t realize we would be starting these beautiful Advent reflections so early. Does that mean we will finish early also?

      • Oh great! I didn’t understand we would have both pre advent and advent meditations. What a blessing! Thank you for your response.

      • Thank you for these pre season reflections. I am thinking of joining my Eastern Orthodox friends in some sort of Advent Fast Do you have any suggestions

  • So happy to begin this Advent journey with a meditation of the Blessed Mother Mary. I am 2/3 through facilitating Edward Sri’s “Mary: A Biblical Walk With The Blessed Mother.” Very enlightening and powerful. I gave a copy and the DVDs to my daughter to study aboard her destroyer with her fellow sailors. They are deployed until June. Please keep them in your prayers that they may be safe instruments of peace, stability and a light in the darkness.

  • I loved your question! Great meditation which fits with today’s Gospel reading about the unfaithful steward…as I have been meditating about this I realized how surrendering one’s whole past, present, and future to God is a difficult thing for us to do…we always want to hang onto some little bits and pieces of who we are for ourselves…we think God surely doesn’t want this…yes, yes He does…He wants our all…and that is not easy to do…that means we must surrender all to God, and just BE!! That much trust requires turning over to God daily everything…The morning offering says it well…O Jesus,
    through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
    I offer You my prayers, works,
    joys and sufferings
    of this day for all the intentions
    of Your Sacred Heart,
    in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
    throughout the world,
    in reparation for my sins,
    for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
    and in particularfor the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.

  • Hi,
    In response to what Beverly said: I have a priest friend who always says to put all or “stuff” tied in a bag and leave it at the foot of the cross. He also says to “leave” it there. Unfortunately I think many of us don’t. This is something I have to work on. I make a beautiful bag but constantly take it back.

    Also, God used imperfect mothers to finally make the Perfect Mother for his Perfect Son. Thank you God for your Son our Redeemer.

  • I wonder whether the references to these ladies somehow points to Jesus. For example Tamar was the innocent victim of the sinfulness of brutal men. Jesus was also the victim of sinful brutal men, unlike Tamar, He was the willing victim and his Fiat to God echoes Mary’s Fiat. He reached out to the humiliated, suffering, outsiders and rejected people, and in turn He was humiliated, suffered, became the rejected and the outsider from the moment the flogging started to his last breath on the cross. If this part of the story starts with these four ladies, is lived in the life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven of Jesus, is it is still ongoing?

    By ongoing, I mean in the sense that He is still rejected, individuals still mock Him, He is locked out of lives and suffers seeing souls flee from Him. Yet, Jesus did not reject those responsible for His death and still welcomes those who today continue to call for His death from history, hearts and lives.

    The reflection on who are the mothers in our lives, reminds me that I have never given birth, fostered or adopted a child but I must be like a mother. I have the role of being a mother to my mother, arranging her care, trying to understand words only she understands and continuously trying to make sure that she never forgets that she is still loved, valued and wanted. In other ways, I feel that I can be a hidden mother through the gift of giving, which on its own is ineffective, but joined to all the other giving, enables the Body of Christ to offer the rejected and abandoned value and love.

    • I look at these women in the bloodline of Christ as examples to women of all times to 1) rise above our own sinfulness; 2) rise above the cultures of our times that contribute to our actions; 3) understand how they point to the fact that if God chose these women in their lowly circumstances to be in CHrist’s bloodline, it is not that far a stretch to accept Mary as His mother; 4) understand that our own obedience to His will CAN change the world around us, too.
      God bless you for your obedience in nurturing your mother.

    • I love the connection you made, on being like a mother. I also have never given birth (one of life’s greatest sorrows), though I’ve always been the nurturing type. May God bless and reward you for your care of your mother.

      I’ve always found comfort in the following verse: “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 113:9)

      • Marianne, your spiritual connection and how your journey is connected to this particular scriptural passage is amazing! Amen.

        I think of it as a birth Mom and yet those truly connected to Jesus are those who make the joyous mother of children to this children suffering without the mother in their life. Jesus watch over them and allow the Marianne’s in the world to be there for them,

        • Thank you Carla. That’s the beauty of Lectio Divina… we can take passages of Scriptures and see how they connect to our own lives. Amazing that God’s Word is thousands of years old and it’s still profoundly full of insight and wisdom today. As well as comfort, advice, guidance, encouragement, hope, and so much more!

  • Whenever I see the word ” genealogy ” red flags sprout up. My father was born and raised in LDS family that traced back to the founding of Salt Lake City. When he left the LDS church he also left his family My father’s name was inscribed in the temple records in Salt Lake. However his name is still in those records. I have always hated this because I had a sort of superstitious dislike for genealogy as if it had some kind of hold over me. That is why whenever I came to a genealogy in the Bible the names just blurred out. I have never actually read Matthew’s genealogy. Nor have I thought of it this way.

    • Hi Barbara, interesting connection to your life experience as I know where you are coming from on this particular experience. The way these unfold are with Jesus’s loving positive outcomes and his amazing way of bringing light into the lives. Awe, what a difference!

      • Not so much a difference but looking at things in a whole new light. If Jesus was decended from a prostitute (Rahab) and an unfaithful wife (who was also a mutiple wife) . Why should I let the multiple marrages in my genes bother me.

  • Good points for meditation, Thomas. We are called to see Christ in those we meet. I had an interesting experience recently which coincidentally followed the session on The Visitation in “The Biblical Walk With the Blessed Mother” study. My coworker is pregnant with her fifth child. She has four daughters already, and now she is having a son. On Monday morning she mentioned that she went to church the day before (which I don’t think she does too often). She was upset because the baby was kicking up a storm like she had never felt before. He kept kicking her and it didn’t stop till after she left the church. She said she didn’t know what was wrong. I told her, “nothing’s wrong… your baby is leaping for joy in your womb because he knows he was in the presence of Jesus. Just like when John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb.” I showed her the passage in the bible. I said, “there’s nothing wrong… your baby is BLESSED.” This young woman was stunned speechless.

    I enjoyed the Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother. These past weeks have been a time of both joys and challenges for me, and I’m grateful for her presence in my home and in my heart. One of the questions asked us to write down what aspects of Mary’s faith inspired us. I read it aloud in class. And my facilitator suggested that I print it out and say it as prayer, which I did. Here it is…

    Dear Mary, I have always admired your willing and unhesitant obedience to God, even when you did not understand.
    Oh Most Immaculate Heart, I strive to be more like you… my prayers have evolved to include trying to discern God’s messages to me… pondering in my heart all that I learn.
    Like you, my Blessed Mother, I put Jesus first in my life… committed to standing by the cross no matter what.
    Holy Mother of God, I want to bring others to Jesus by proclaiming the Good News.
    Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, help me in my own biblical walk… by emulating you and by making prayer a priority. Amen.

    • Marianne, I too have just completed “Mary: a Biblical Walk With the Blessed Mother” I am afraid that when I answered that question I cheated. I searched the internet until I found an image that expressed my feelings. I found an icon of Mary holding a small image of Jesus crusified on her lap . I just printed it out, when I got to class I just let myself reflect on the picture aloud. I am printing your prayer and includine it in my Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother book. I might try to find some images to illustrate it
      Thank you so much

  • Been waiting to get back with a bible study group, and the time is back, Yah. Thank you for starting our Advent Bible Study. To start with this particular topic is a good reflective start, Mary our Mary! And, the hardships that were brought to light with the women mentioned is disheartening and with Jesus at work are overcome through repentance and belief. Thank you, Jesus!

  • I believe the women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus is the Tamar of GENESIS Chapter 38. She prostitued herself to Judah, her father-in-law, because he did not give her, in marriage, to his youngest son, when he became of age, as promised. As a result, she begot Judah a son.

  • Very good article.

    I tend often to view Advent not so much as a season of penance, but more as a season to “get ready” for the coming of the “light of the world” Jesus during this time of year when the days are their shortest the nights their longest.

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