Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Readings of the Day
Today’s reading brought me back to a memorial service I participated in just before Christmas honoring women and men who had experienced homelessness and had tragically died on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, in the past year.
At the memorial, a small group of us called the names of the eighty-three people—clients and friends—who were no longer able to stand there with us. They were not the names of people who were well-known. They could have easily passed away unnoticed, forgotten. But, instead, we sang songs, told stories, offered prayers, and took notice of those who had passed on to eternal life. These eighty-three people were not forgotten.
At the close of the service, all were invited to toss a flower into the nearby river to honor those who had died. As I watched the colorful pink, yellow, fuchsia, and red petals float by, I thought of the fragility and beauty of life. I thought of how I could have missed this opportunity, how I too could have easily not noticed these men and women who had mostly died on the streets, victims of treatable illness, hunger, poverty and loneliness, which, for many, ultimately took their lives.
Today, in our readings, we hear a story on the other end of life—a birth that is seemingly insignificant and could have easily been overlooked: a poor baby, born to humble parents in a cold, dark cave. It’s a birth that could have easily gone unnoticed.
But a few people did notice: shepherds and wise men followed the Bethlehem Star to welcome the newborn in the manger. Mary, his mother, held the beauty of the moment in her heart. These seekers sang songs, told stories, and offered prayers for the Prince of Peace.
Sometimes our work at Catholic Charities brings breakthrough moments that are noticed and praised by many. But most of the time, our work is quiet, and the resilient people we serve attract little recognition from the public. Indeed our clients run the risk of going unnoticed. But as people called to live the Gospel, we recognize that those who come to us for services are Christ in disguise. And so we notice, we love, and we serve the “forgotten” people in our world as best we can.
May we, like Mary, trust that God loves us at all moments of our life, and takes notice of us each of us with the same gaze of love.
Aimee Shelide Mayer is the Program Coordinator for Social Concerns & Advocacy for Catholic Charities of Tennessee in Nashville.