Time is fascinating no matter where people come from. For those who own a business or manage corporate funds, it is a commodity best measured by the fiscal year. For many experts, time can and should be calculated to the nanosecond. There are places where watches, clocks, and calendars make little difference. And, on every continent, many insist that the passage of days and years mean that all events happen when they are meant to—even tragedies.
Given these various perceptions, there may be something surprising about “the Gospel of God” that Paul preaches: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” Thanks to Christ’s dying and rising, the Apostle says, we are God’s children, not slaves. We are no longer bound by any annual cycle, or its underside, the greed, the hatred, or the indifferent violence our world worships. Fate is no longer a word we need fear, not today. For Christ lives in us; the Spirit enables us to address God as our Father, and to enjoy “the fruits of the spirit …, love, and joy and peace.”
Naturally, it is easy to call the Church’s faith absurd. Depending on your frame of reference, after all, this could be just more day to enjoy our favorite sport while we eat and drink to our heart’s content; or merely another day when something, even a human body, can be bought, sold, or traded. For many, it can and will be day of misery, of brutal conflict—even a twenty-four hour period spent nurturing hatred. And it goes without saying that such possibilities can possess our souls until there is never enough profit or pleasure, never enough security, never enough rage, and never, ever enough power. That is not likely to change in 2022.
These dangerously limited perspectives mean there is a reason why we are meant to remember on the Octave of Christmas that Mary gave birth to God for our salvation. Being people in whom Christ lives means there is more to life than competing for and controlling the means of production, and more to life than looking on with resentment as others claw their way up a corporate ladder or two, and plotting the moment when you rise up, trust them aside, and let them suffer the violence, the injustice, the misery or the despair for a change. What is more, we are given the understanding that some things are never meant to happen—a completed suicide, for instance, or someone’s dying from COVID from lack of access to a vaccine, or the abuse of a child, or hours and days dragging by as someone endures excruciating pain.
So today, in pondering the birth of Christ, the Church imitates Mary and dwells on “the mystery of faith,” and on her role in the plan, the “economy,” of salvation. Moreover, we see in Mary’s calling our vocation as Christians. By faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are sent out to bring Christ into our world, where his mercy and compassion are meant to be found, where the grace he brings us is meant to build a society where peace, justice, and reconciliation are facts of life in every time and place; and a society where no one need get used to oppression, or despair. See our world in this light, of course, and we remember that the Marketplace is a human invention, not a deity to be worshiped. Then we remember why Paul insisted: “…Christ lives in me; I live by faith in … [him], who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ven. Leo John Dehon wants us to remember this too. In the love of Christ, born of Mary, we participate in the the divine economy of grace, where, for every human being, “now is … [always] the acceptable time; now is [always] the day of salvation,” and now is the time when God means steadfast love to fill the earth.