On this first day of the year, we are invited to meditate on the gentle, humble, contemplative spirit of Mary as the mother of God. She is the mother of Christ, the Word incarnate. The use of the term “Mother of God” or “God-bearer” known in Greek as “Theotokos,” is the oldest, official title given to Our Lady. Because Jesus is both God and man, Mary is the mother of the whole person of Jesus. It was in the year 431 AD that the Council of Ephesus decreed that Jesus is one divine person with two natures; a divine nature and a human nature and both are intimately united. That means, Jesus’ being God and being man cannot be separated. It’s a term called the hypostatic union. Then the Council of Ephesus declared "If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel and that on this account the holy virgin is the "Theotokos" (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the word of God become flesh by birth) let him be anathema.” Anathema means cursed or excommunicated from the Church, which implies to be denied rights as a Catholic. That’s how strong the Church views the motherhood of Mary as Mother of God. So, when Luke narrates the story of the shepherds’ arrival at Bethlehem and that they “found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger,” the evangelist reinforces Mary’s motherhood of Christ already seen in the gospel of John, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
In the second reading, Saint Paul presents the promise of an inheritance of salvation for mankind through the birth of Christ. God sent his Son into the world born of a woman, first to redeem humanity under the bondage of the law of sin. God’s Son, as we recite in the Creed, was conceived of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary. Recalling the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in the 16th Century, what the Blessed Mother said to Saint Juan Diego reflects her role in the incarnation theology when she declares, “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.” The motherhood of Mary is at the heart of Christian theology because it builds on the doctrine of the Trinity that the son of Mary is both God and Man at the same time. God used a humble Virgin to make Himself available to sinful humanity. As the gospel says, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Therefore, Mary invites us to ponder upon the privilege we all receive in baptism, that the Spirit of God is poured into our souls enabling us to call God, “Abba, Father!”
What does it mean to ponder, to reflect? One of the biggest impediments in our culture today is the lack of silence. It’s difficult to ponder and reflect in almost constant noise. But do you know the first language that you learned? You learned the language of silence. We all speak it fluently because it’s God’s language. You lived and developed in the safety, security, and silence of your mother’s womb, hearing the rhythm of her beating heart. And then birth comes and it’s traumatic. You come crashing out, bottom slapped, bright lights, loud machines, and people. Brothers and sisters screaming, dogs barking, airplanes blasting across the roof, cars, etc. So much noise. How do we ponder and reflect in today’s world?
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen eastern icons. It’s a form of art that exaggerates certain features to communicate a message. The Blessed Mother is often depicted in icons with large eyes and ears but a small mouth. The message is that Our Lady spends more time watching and listening than speaking. It’s an image of her interior reflection. What does it mean to be silent and ponder like Our Lady? We can practice exterior silence but be very noisy on the inside; rehashing conversations and even having arguments with people in our heads. This isn’t silence or reflection. The scriptures don’t say “And Mary murmured in her heart.” Why is my child surrounded by smelly animals? I can’t believe that guy said there’s no room at the inn. These shepherds are annoying. Joseph isn’t moving fast. When exactly are we getting out of this place? Silent murmuring and complaining isn’t holiness because you can be quiet but not silent. Mary pondered and reflected in her heart.
Holy reflection is looking for the beauty of God in our circumstances, even in struggles. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pain in your heart if you’re experiencing difficulties but it ponders and seeks God in every moment of life. It sees the beauty of God’s face at the moment. Interior silence is calm, reflective, and leaves room for God to speak. It leaves room for us to reflect on our lives and on holy things like the scriptures, the angels, the Eucharist. It leads to peace.
As we enter the year 2021, God knows everything that is going to happen. He knows each of us intimately including every detail that will happen to each one of us this year. Remember the words of Christ, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30). For some of us, 2021 will be a great year that we won’t want to end, for others there will likely be a struggle. For so many others, it will probably be a mixed bag. But taking some time to be interiorly silent, reflecting on my life and the things of God, will reveal the Father’s love for me as his child. If I know that God who is my Father is with me, then my struggles won’t be so overwhelming. I’ll be able to persevere. Take it one day at a time as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. One day at a time. Don’t stress about the past or fear for the future but look for God right now, in this present moment. Reflect and ponder on his love and goodness in your life and you’ll be like Our Lady. You’ll know peace, have peace, and radiate peace; a peaceful 2021 even if there is exterior turmoil.
As the Mother of Christ, Mary blesses us with the gift of Christ by her fiat. Mary contemplates the joy of being the mother of Christ and on the mission of accompanying her Son to save mankind. In Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God comes to earth through Mary. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary at the annunciation. The shepherds come to Mary at the birth of Christ. Elizabeth announces Mary’s blessedness through all generations. Mary is the mediatrix of God’s graces, the Queen of peace, and the herald of blessings in Christ Jesus. Let us join the shepherds in glorifying and praising God for all He has done for humanity through Mary.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are the New Israel. Like the Israelites, we are embarking on a pilgrimage in 2021. Our experience in 2020 has been like those of exiles and captives caused by the pandemic- losses, lockdown, isolated, anxious, afraid, and despairing. But we are alive by God’s grace. Let us contemplate like Mary, the greatness of the Lord’s presence during this time. Let us ask God to lead us as He led his people out of Egypt. And as Aaron invoked the blessings upon the people, I invoke the priestly blessings upon each one of you, upon your families, and upon the world: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”