God made Human

God made Human

by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM               Ireland                       24.03.2024

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord also called the Feast of the Incarnation. This was Mother Mary Martin’s special feast day. When she made her vows in 1937 she took the religious name of Sr. Mary of the Incarnation. And she always kept a nativity crib in her office to remind her miracle of Christ being born a human like us.

There is one thing that has really annoyed me for a long time. It is this image we have of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as being a sweet, passive girl. You know the images. Mary is depicted as standing, all dressed in blue or white, hands slightly lifted, eyes looking towards heaven.

The Mary in the Gospels is anything but passive. She hears of her cousin in need, and off she goes on a perilous journey to come to her help. She goaded Jesus into action at the marriage feast of Cana. She stood at the foot of the cross and watched her own son suffer a horrible death. She is a determined woman and a woman of action. So why is she shown as being so sweet and passive?

Years of patriarchy explains most of it. The role of women was downplayed, and women were “good” if they did what men told them to. Also, another part of the problem is who did the translations from the original texts into modern day English (men, mostly).

Years ago, I had a wonderful lecturer, a Redemptorist priest, in Fordham University, New York, who explained the translation problem of exactly the text: “Let it be done to me according to thy word”. These are Mary’s words of acceptance of the angel’s message that she was to become the mother of God. We translate it in a passive voice – let it be done – but the actual Greek text is much more active. It is as if Mary was punching the air and saying “Yes!”

I like to think of Mary this way. She was young, probably still a teenager by modern day standards, certainly at the beginning of her reproductive life. She would have embraced the cause with excitement, with fervour. Look at our young people today on protest marches for climate change, world peace, etc.

So today let us rejoice with Mary who took on the challenge and said “yes!”. May her positivity stir us into a similar conviction that our small actions can make a difference in our troubled world.