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The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 2017

Click here to listen to this homily (.mp4 file)
 
     On this eighth day of Christmas we get to look at Christmas through two sets of eyes: the eyes of the shepherds who were the newborn Christ’s first visitors, and the eyes of Mary, his mother.

     Sometimes the shepherds get short shrift in the telling of the Christmas story.  They pale by comparison with the Magi, those mysterious figures from out of the East laden with exotic gifts.  The only gifts the shepherds bring are the simple gifts of awe and wonder, the homage of their hearts.  But wouldn’t we do well to follow their lead and bring those same gifts to the newborn Savior?  Gold, frankincense and myrrh might be precious, but wonder, awe, and adoration are priceless!

     And what did they see, those shepherds?  They saw Mary and Joseph -- people very much like themselves: humble people, poor people, unimportant people with neither power nor influence.  But they saw more, of course: they saw the glow of divinity in the infant lying in the manger.  Why else would they have felt compelled, after they had left the scene, to go about “making known what they had heard and seen”?  Why else would they have returned to the task of tending their flocks “glorifying and praising God?”

     We would do well to look at the manger scene through the eyes of the shepherds, but in order to see what they saw, I think we first need to shed some of our self-importance and allow ourselves to become small and insignificant like they were, simple and poor in spirit. For only the eyes of the poor in spirit can see divinity hiding in such humble humanity.

     And, my friends, the second set of eyes through which we get to look at the great Christmas mystery are the eyes of Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother.  It is Mary who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”   Mary must have pondered them in her heart for as long as she lived, and as the child grew in wisdom, age, and grace, and when he came to embrace his holy mission and to pay the price for doing so, her pondering must have turned into puzzlement and into pain.

     How wise the Church is to hold Mary before us today!  She has so much to tell us about her Son – she who bore him in her womb “with love beyond all telling”; she who gave birth to the author of life amid the squalor of a stable; she who welcomed scruffy shepherds as his first visitors; she who looked upon the child knowing that he was not only her son but also God’s Son in a way no other child would ever be; she who would one day stand at the foot of his cross and receive his broken body into her arms, the same arms that once cradled his tiny, newborn body.  It is no wonder Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  There was enough here to ponder for a whole lifetime.

     It’s the same for you and me, my friends.  However long we live, we will never run out of things to ponder in the Christmas story, the Christ story, never run out of things to learn – about God, about ourselves, about what is important and what is not, about life, about love.

     My friends in Christ, it is altogether fitting that we begin this New Year by reflecting and pondering along with Mary, the Mother of God and our mother.  May we come to see a little more of what she saw and may we come to believe more deeply as she believed.  With Mary as our companion and guide, this year of 2017, for all the uncertainties and challenges it portends, could bring graces beyond measure and wonderful surprises!

Father Michael G. Ryan 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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