Gospel – Luke 2:16-21
On January First we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God. This title of Mary is an acknowledgment of the two natures of Jesus, Human and Divine. Because of the Divine Nature of Jesus, Mary is honored as the Mother of God who was born into our world. Or as Gabriel said “’He shall be called, Emmanuel,’ a name which means “God is with us.”
This is how the Catechism describes Mary’s divine motherhood, “Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus,” Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God.” CCC 495
In the Gospel we have the short and simple account that describes how the shepherds responded to the angel who appeared to them to announce the birth of Jesus, and the multitude of angels that appeared singing glory to God. The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem, found the Holy Family, and told everyone about Jesus. We are told nothing of how the Holy Family reacted to their visit except that, “Mary kept all these things, in her heart.” This passage ends with the Shepherds returning to their flocks glorifying God.
In the simplicity of this passage there are three lessons for us. The first, be attentive to how God speaks to us. It might not be through an angel, but God’s word comes to us in numerous ways. The most obvious is the Scriptures, however His word can also come to us in the prayers at Mass and elsewhere. There are also times when we “hear” God speaking in our hearts. God speaks to us out of love and as a gift that we should be mindful of each day. The second lesson, Mary is an example. She responded to the visit of the shepherds and their account of how they had come seeking the new born child by savoring the experience of their presence and their story of the angels. We live in a fast moving world in which we have numerous experiences each day, and we quickly move on from one to another without reflecting or cherishing these encounters. From Mary’s response we are given a lesson to reflect on our experiences of God’s presence and allow them to remain with us as a means of support in our faith journey. Finally, the shepherds returned to their flocks. As attentive as we might be, and as reflective on how God is present to us at a particular moment, we too, must return to our regular lives. Like the Shepherds we should return changed by our experience in a way that will give us a new appreciation of what God has called us to do, and insight into how to make our experience of God more a part of our lives.
This Solemnity is part of our Christmas Celebration that continues until Sunday, January 11th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Our immediate response can be to herald Christ’s birth like the angels, or witness to God’s love like the Shepherds. This is a season for us to rejoice at the Incarnation. So don’t be in such a hurry to take down the tree and put away the decorations. Be a witness of our Faith by wishing people a “Merry Christmas” until January 11th.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.