I am always a little tempted when the genealogy reading comes up in the gospel to read. If for no other reason, it is to see if I can read it with the type of conviction that might cause people to pay attention. Usually I do not. And yet, when we think about celebrating a birthday, it might be the best time for us to think about the connections we have to the past, and will have in the future. For better or worse, our family and our relatives are connected.
What is interesting to me is that we do not choose these connections. We did not have auditions to see what relatives would “make the cut.” They were given to us, whether we wanted them to be or not. We did not have a choice in the matter. We do however have a choice in how we will allow them to influence us.
Most people can look to their relatives and see how, in positive ways, they have shaped the persons we are and whom it is we will become. When I think of my relatives, they are probably not a lot different from yours. There are some relatives of mine I admire deeply and seek to emulate in my faith and in the way I live my life. There are others for whom faith is not as important. At the same time, they still impact the person I am, either because I have been shaped by past experiences or people I care about have been shaped by past experiences.
The Blessed Mother is no different. Just as we are, she too was shaped and molded by her relatives. Like most family trees hers too is filled with a variety of people, with a variety of serious expressions of faith. We know she was open to being shaped by Jesus too, perhaps most especially when we see of her struggle, and that of her relatives, in trying to figure out this son of hers.
Perhaps what is most important when we consider the first reading. Saint Paul reminds us that all that God does God does for a purpose. It is not purely a chance event that allows some to be saved, while others who may not have had that chance event are out of luck. No, if there is any important lesson on a day when we recall the Blessed Mother, it is precisely that God is ever-present seeking to invite us again and again to a deeper life with him.
In many ways, it is not just that we did not choose our family. Most of us did not choose our family of faith either. Whether we are a life long Catholic, or someone new, those witnesses that led us to faith came to us by grace. But the choice is not luck, but is for the purpose God sets before us.