January 1, 2023: Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Every January 1, the Church celebrates Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church. In the celebration of feast days, what does “solemnity” mean? It means we’re celebrating a feast of the highest rank, celebrating a mystery of the faith. (So says Google.)
For a feast day of the highest rank, today’s Gospel certainly presents a very humble cast of characters, places and things. First come the shepherds – no doubt weary, in rough looking dress but filled with amazement. Joseph – a man of few words. Mary – no doubt exhausted having just given birth. The newborn, Long Awaited One, lies in a manger – really? How much more humble can anyone get?
Yet the scene seems filled with excitement, wondrous stories, unexpected and uninvited company. Uninvited, the shepherds came to see the infant. Evidently others showed up as well. It must have been these other unexpected guests to whom shepherds “made known the message that had been told them.”
In the midst of all the noise, the excitement, the sounds of amazement and joy, sits Mary. What is she doing? She’s watching, listening, pondering. She is keeping all these things and reflecting on them in her heart.
We may not know her thoughts of this moment but we know her actions – which always speak louder than words. Mary, mother of God, responds in the ordinary way a Jewish mother responds to the birth of a boy child. She and Joseph take him to the temple to be circumcised.
At this point in her life, Mary knows that Jesus is no ordinary boy; but perhaps all she knows to do is do what she knows how to do and see what happens. Mary probably senses that she’ll have much to keep and reflect on in her heart.
Bottom line? Mary deserves a feast day of the highest rank celebrating a mystery of faith. Being the Mother of God is difficult at best. Accepting the Holy One’s invitation to be the mother of Jesus was challenge enough; but to do so with quiet trust, to watch and listen with care and to learn how the ordinary and extraordinary are one and the same – that’s a mystery of faith indeed!
I attended Marywood High School in Evanston, Ill., staffed by the Sisters of Providence. Our school’s motto was “Always do as Mary would.” Sixty years after my high school graduation, I’m still not sure I’m up to the task. Would you like to join me in the effort?