September 8, Feast of Nativity of Mary
The recent Feast of the Nativity of Mary on September 8 highlights the special role of Mary in the history of salvation. From her birth she was the chosen one of God who would bear, in the flesh, Jesus, the Son of God. One of Mary’s essential human qualities, among many of course, was her transparent openness to God’s presence and her ability to listen. The responsorial psalm for the 23rd Sunday says: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 95). Certainly Mary’s heart was completely open to hear the voice of God. It was because of her openness that she became the Mother of God. We, like Mary, are called to a life of holiness.
In his Holy Rule for monks, St. Benedict begins the Rule with the words: “Listen, carefully, my son.” (Prologue 1) St. Benedict expects of the monks who follow his Rule to above all “listen” to the voice of God the Father, imitating Mary in her capacity to “hear His voice,” in the words of the Psalmist. Turning to God to listen to His Word is the first step for all of us in our life of holiness.
For all of us, the capacity to listen not only to the voice of God, but also to one another, does not come easily. We must diligently and daily work at it. To listen means to be attentive and to concentrate our attention on what is being said; whether it is attention to God’s Word or attention to a friend, a spouse or a child. For most of us, for example in a meeting at work, we are often eager to express our own thoughts and opinions but we often tune out others when they speak. This is not helpful neither to us nor to others, nor does it help build up a family, a community or even a business. We often do the same thing in our prayer life. We are eager to tell God what we want or even need, but how often do we take the time and the patience to ponder God’s Word and listen for His sometimes quiet voice in our lives?
Mary remains for us a wonderful example of holiness of life. May we learn from her ability to really listen. In our busy and often hectic lives, we need to take the time to listen as Mary did; to listen, as St. Benedict says, “with the ear of your heart.”
God bless you!
Abbot John Brahill, O.S.B. ‘67