Mary’s gifts to Jesus and what we can learn from them
By Effie Caldarola
Catholic News Service
Few things are as popular today as genealogy. Everyone seeks to know more about their ancestry, and websites and television shows pique our interest and help us find that great-grandfather we never knew.
Despite the recent fad, genealogy has been important since ancient times, and it’s clear from Scripture that knowledge of ancestry was considered essential by the Hebrew people and by the Gospel writers who gave us a picture of Christ.
Matthew and Luke thought it important to take us through a long line of Jesus’ ancestors to place him within the context of human history. Although both writers give us Joseph’s lineage, we know that the person who gave Jesus his human makeup, of her body and blood, was Mary.
Mary is near and familiar to us as Catholics, and yet mysterious. Sometimes we yearn for her comfort and other times we puzzle about who she really was. Little is told of her in Scripture, and much of our beliefs about her come to us through tradition. The Christmas story brings us closest to her, as we envision a young woman tasked with a great responsibility, yet one bathed in our common humanity. We are told the shadow of the Most High overpowered her, and yet the result was that most human of occasions, the birth of a child, with its pain and messiness and extraordinary joy.
Mary brought a little boy into this weary world. Like millions of women before her, she experienced the incredible love of an infant at her breast.
At her knee, he received some of the greatest gifts ever, particularly learning about his mother’s ancestry.
Jesus learned about his Jewish heritage and what it was to be a man. In her kitchen, he shared laughter and stories with her. He witnessed her example of courage and forbearance. She taught him the songs and customs of her lineage. No doubt, Jesus heard from Mary tales of her parents and grandparents, the family lore and legends of people long past.
It was Mary who kissed Jesus’ childhood cuts and scrapes. It was she who enforced the household rules. To him, she passed on faith and a life of a prayer that he would carry throughout life. She searched for him, with Joseph, when she thought he was lost. She lay awake in the dark waiting for his footsteps when he grew older. She dreamed the dreams of every mother, the ones she treasured in her heart.
It was Mary who told the people at the wedding, and through them all of us, “Do whatever he tells you.” It was Mary who stood at the foot of the cross, heartbroken but loyal and present until the end.
Christmas offers us the opportunity to unwrap the great gift of intimacy that Mary shared with her son and that we can share with others. It offers us a chance to throw off the preconceived ideas we have of this woman, the plastic statue that sometimes seems unworldly.
Mary was wholly of this world, and through her we were given the gift of touching God, and of being kin to God.
Through her, Jesus came into our earthly existence, a divine spark that embraced all our lowly humanity and made us brothers and sisters.
Spending time with this woman, our sister, at Christmas time is a wonderful way to connect the human and the divine, to be with someone who touched heaven and earth, who united her ancestors to all of their descendants, including us, in one family.
Mary impels us to connect with our own heritage, the beauty of our Hebrew and Christian roots, the wealth of our Catholic tradition, the remembrance of our parents and grandparents who also were touched by the birth of a tiny baby to a poor young woman of ancient stock.
Caldarola is a freelance writer and a columnist for Catholic News Service.