Mary Mother of God

Deacon Blaine Barclay
December 31, 2015
January 1, 2016

Today is the feast of Mary the mother of God of ‘’Theotokos”, literally, ‘God-bearer’. In our Gospel today we have three reactions to the glad tidings/the good news that has burst in upon our lives in Jesus. First, we have the shepherds watching their flock, caring for their sheep. Shepherds as group are not used to hearing such good news, choirs of angels singing, ‘’to you is born a saviour who is Christ the Lord’‘. They are the poor, God’s little chosen ones, not known for their religious devotion or fidelity; not usually showing up for synagogue on the Sabbath; maybe showing up for high holy days at the Temple, but not regular churchgoers, so to speak. Significantly, this is the first group to whom the good news comes. And they are told what to do, “go to Bethlehem”, go to the house of bread, there you find the child….’ What is their reaction? “Let us go.” ‘’ The shepherds went in haste”, they didn’t just saunter over to Bethlehem in a leisurely manner. ’Hey, let’s go check this out’. They went in haste; there is a sense of urgency here. They have been waiting a long time for this good news of the promised Messiah, waiting long for God mercy. God’s anointed King is in town, backed up with a choir of angels, the Messiah has appeared on the stage of history. The shepherds hurried down from the hill country, you can almost hear them out of breath. They find Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, a grain bin for the bread of life. But their excitement and haste to greet the infant Messiah is not the only thing the shepherds do. “They made known to others what they had been told about this child.” We know what was told to them so we know what they said. So we have the reaction of the shepherds. Excitement, going in haste to see Jesus, and based on what they have heard and seen they tell others the good news they have received. These poor marginalized shepherds become the first evangelizers of this new messianic age. They pass on the message they have received, this word that is not their own. Next, what is the reaction of those who hear what the shepherds have to say? We are told, “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” Why were they so amazed? I mean other than the choir of angels singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people of good will”, and the fact that the baby was Lord and Messiah. They were amazed because what was and is still happening is really amazing. God has become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. God’s flesh is lying in a manger, and we, along with the shepherds and their hearers, have been invited to the feast.

But let’s take a moment to reflect on the response of Mary to the events our gospel bears witness to. “And Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. Of all the reactions to the good news, the reaction of the shepherds, the reaction of those who hear the testimony of the shepherds, it is Mary’s response that is most instructive for us. Our Lady is the prototypical disciple, and as disciples let us take our stand within her response. “Mary treasured all these words”, that is to say, she reflected deeply upon them. She has recently given birth to the Christ child, who first came to her in the word of an angel. “Hail, full of grace”. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Now she has heard the word of other angels, echoed in the testimony of the shepherds. Like that first angel, Gabriel, they are talking about her son. The Incarnate Word emptied into the pure vulnerability of a newborns flesh. “Mary treasures all these words” about the Word. But Mary doesn’t just reflect on her experience, and the word of God that comes to her. She is not just storing these words and events in her memory so she can think about them later, or use her mind to make sense of this word event that has come among us to transform all our lives. “Mary treasures all these words, and pondered them in her heart.” For, as the little prince tells us, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Mary is the contemplative par excellence.“ She shows us the sure path of prayer, to treasure and ponder the word of God, not just with the head but with the heart, and in this way to reflect on our experience illuminated in the light of faith; to allow the seed of the word to take root in our hearts, in our flesh, so that our lives too can become the fruit of her womb.

So let us hasten with the shepherds, the echo of the song of angels ringing in our ears, and take up Mary’s invitation to treasure and ponder these words in our hearts throughout the coming year.