My Dear friends in Christ
May the grace and peace of Christ ransom you and make you his adopted children in the power of the Holy Spirit.. Are you a person who makes New Year’s resolutions? Going all the way back to 8th grade, I have a box containing all my resolutions. Well, I sort of have all my resolutions. Like most of you, I gave up making resolutions for myself a number of years ago because, surprise surprise, I never seemed to actually do them. I would make them and then forget about them. But, I think I’m going to start again this year, I’m just going to do it better.
Today we celebrate the end of the Octave of Christmas with the celebration of Mary, Mother of God. This is actually a very old feast in the church going all the way back to the third century. Back then, it was used to establish that Jesus was fully human, that he was actually born like any other person. Really this isn’t that much of a controversy in the church today, except for dialogue with Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe that Jesus is some kind of angel. So, what is the focus of the celebration for today?
To me, the focus is on one phrase in the middle of the gospel, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” This phrase is repeated later on in this same chapter in the context of Jesus being lost in the Temple. After he explains that they should have known he would be in his Father’s house, the gospel of Luke says, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” Some have indicated that the reason for this phrase is that Mary helped Luke write his Gospel, that she was one of his sources. Others simply believe that Luke is using Mary to represent where each follower of Jesus is after the Ascension.
Unlike the Apostles and the crowds, we didn’t have the opportunity to witness Jesus Christ in action. We have to rely on the testimony of others. Mary gave birth to a child, a very special child but a child nonetheless. She had been assured by an Angel that he was destined for greatness but all four gospels pretty much agree that his life prior to being baptized by John was…not all that spectacular. Other than being the obstinate 12 year old who argues with high priests, a feat which, trust me, is in and of itself, neither all that surprising nor all that impressive. I’ve had my fair share of 12 year olds who think they know more than me! Other than that one event, we don’t hear anything about Jesus growing up years. Mary, nonetheless, kept them in her heart and they were a source of strength for her when the time came for him to carry out that most unselfish act of dying on the cross.
One of the reasons that setting goals for our lives doesn’t work is because we don’t take the time to reflect on them. We set them and forget them. We’d rather spend time in front of the TV or the Computer or doing some other hobby rather than spending time asking God what he wants for our lives and then spending time listening to promptings of the Holy Spirit challenging us to make concrete steps to guide us toward that goal. We’d rather make a wish on New Years and hope that an angel does it for us. On this feast of Mary, Mother of God, we are invited to sit with Mary pondering what it means to be a good disciple of Jesus.