FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Numbers 6:22-27 | Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 | Galatians 4:4-7 | Luke 2:16-21
Jeremy wants a PlayStation 5 Console for Christmas really badly, but the kid is a real bad seed, and he knows it. He writes a letter to Jesus. "Dear Jesus, if I get a PlayStation 5 for Christmas, I'll be good for a whole week." He thinks about it, crosses out what he wrote, and says, "I can't be good for a whole week, I'll be good for five days." He crosses that out and writes, "I'll be good for four days." Then he thinks again and says, "Can't do that." He gets down to one day and says, "I can't even be good for a day." Then in frustration, goes in his mother's room and get the statue of the Virgin Mary, wraps it up in a blanket, puts it in a paper bag, throws it in the closet and says, "Dear Jesus, if I don't get a PlayStation 5 Console for Christmas, you'll never see your mother again!
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Think about that for a moment: we call Mary the “Mother of God”. In 431 A.D., the Council of Ephesus taught that Mary is truly the Mother of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean however that she is older than God or the source of her Son's divinity. She is the Mother of God because she carried in her womb a divine person, Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14). Our evangelical brothers and sisters will argue that there is only one mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5). Yes, Catholics agree that there is only one Mediator with the Father — Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we pray to Mary that she may intercede for us with her Divine Son. As an ancient adage admirably puts it, “Ad Jesum, Per Mariam”. To Jesus, through Mary. When we pray to Mary, we ask her to intercede with her Son for us. It sure helped at the wedding feast in Cana. Jesus told her it was not yet the time to begin his public life, and then did as she asked (cf. John 2:1-12). St. Teresa of Calcutta often shared, “If you ever feel distressed during your day — call upon our Lady — just say this simple prayer: Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now!" No excuses, no explanations, just bury yourself in her arms. A mother always has the best interest of her children at heart. Mary always desires to bring us to her son. Mary is indeed our own back door into Heaven!
At age 16, Andor Földes was already a skilled pianist, but he was experiencing a troubled year. In the midst of the young Hungarian's personal struggles, one of the most renowned pianists of the day came to Budapest. Emil von Sauer was famous not only for his abilities; he was also the last surviving pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Von Sauer requested that Földes play for him. Földes obliged with some of the most difficult works of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann. When he finished, von Sauer walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead. "My son," he said, "when I was your age I became a student of Liszt. He kissed me on the forehead after my first lesson, saying, 'Take good care of this kiss--it comes from Beethoven, who gave it to me after hearing me play.' I have waited for years to pass on this sacred heritage, but now I feel you deserve it."
The oldest Hebrew prayer of blessing in the Old Testament is presented to us in the first reading taken from the Book of Numbers. God gave it to Moses for Aaron, the high priest, to pray over His people. The words are simple, but poetic and rich. Mary, Mother of God, heard this prayer of blessing for God’s people throughout her life. In the Jewish tradition, times of difficulty were seen as moments where God hid his face. By contrast, this wish that God would reveal his face is a wish for God’s presence and blessing. When the shepherds arrived to pay homage to the new king, perhaps, these words resound in her heart as she looked into the tiny face of her infant Son. God, now has a face, and wherever that face looked, the light of blessing, protection, grace, and peace would shine. Spending large amounts on firecrackers will not drive away evil spirits. Round fruits on the table will not bring good luck. As we begin the New Year, it is fitting to ask God to bless us so that we might live lives of justice that lead to peace. "Full of grace" is the name Mary possesses in the eyes of God. Mary, God's blessed, is our model as we begin a New Year. Her devotion and dedication to God brought abundant blessings upon her life. Scripture says that God will provide an abundant life to those who "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." If we are faithful to God like Mary, He will fill us with every good thing.
Jesus was leisurely taking His morning walk through the heavenly garden. It was peaceful until He bumped off nasty people whom he believes should be in another place. Angrily He went to the pearly gates to confront Saint Peter. The hard-working gatekeeper embarrassingly complained, "Lord, when the undeserving come here, I chase them away and tell them to either go to purgatory or hell. But then they go to the back door, knock softly, and your mother sneaks them in!"
The expression "in the fullness of time" speaks of a most sacred moment when God entered human history in a unique and unprecedented way. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians tells us that God sent His Son, born of a woman, that we might be ransomed from the law and receive adoption as children. We are no longer slaves but rather heirs of God. As adopted children, we would no longer act on our own but with the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Thus we would be entitled to share in the same inheritance as the Son deserved for his obedience, namely, an eternal place with the Son in His Father's house. Paul used the analogy of a family and the rights of all members within it, so it is particularly fitting for the celebration of Mary as the mother who brought Jesus into the human family. Mary is our mother because Christ the Lord gave her to us as a mother. At the foot of the cross, Mary was made the mother of the Church. She accepted the beloved disciple and in the beloved disciple she accepted all of us totally. Thus Mary is our mother, too.
In Japan, there is a mountainous area which for centuries was called, Ubasuteyama or "the place where you leave your mother.” It was so named because of the custom of taking the old and feeble up to the top of the mountain to die. One day a strong young man named Katashi carried his sick or elderly mother Kaiya through the dense forest. As they move up the mountain for the purpose both understood but neither talked about, Katashi began to notice something. “Why,” he asked his mother, “do you keep on dropping white pebbles along the way?” Looking at him through eyes dimmed by everything but love, Kaiya said, “So that you will not get lost on the way back home, my son.”
The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find the best interest of her children. The Gospel reading’s final line makes reference to the eighth day when the circumcision and naming of the child was to take place. Today is that eighth day. "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." This one line from Scripture can make a world of difference in our lives. Saint Luke recalls Mary reflecting over and over again the events we read about in the Christmas gospels, constantly trying to discern the design of God every step of the way. Mary did not talk a lot about these things in public like how we would make our New Year’s resolution public in Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook. Mary silently reflected and patiently waited for the dramatic unfolding of God's plan in her life. It is a daunting journey in this life to do the will of the Father in all things, and yet, we have everything we need to persevere with the love of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit — and Jesus gives us Mother Mary as our gentle and loving spiritual companion, advocate, and guide. She waits patiently for us to invite her into our hearts and into our homes. She offers us rest in her Immaculate Heart, loves us as only a mother can, and presents our needs to her beloved Son who hears and answers our prayers. If we can spend a good amount of time this year, simply reflecting on these things in our hearts, surely our lives will change. Let us enter into this New Year 2024, embracing Mary’s attitude. To Jesus, through Mary. Mary is our way to her loving Son. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of our family and the whole world. Let us close our eyes and together invoke her:
Ipagbunyi ka, Maria
Punong-puno Ka ng biyaya
Sa mga kababaihan,
bukod tangi kang pinagpala
Dahil sa ‘Yong sinapupunan
Itinalaga at itinadhana
Na magbunga si Hesus,
na Anak ng Lumikha
Ipanalangin mo kami, Birheng Maria
Sa'ming Panginoon na Ikaw ang Ina
Ngayon at sa aming mga pagkakasala
at sa sandaling mapugto ang aming hininga.
Sa ngalan ng Ama,
ng Anak at ng Diwang Banal
na Tatlong katauhan
ng Dakilang Maykapal
Siya nawa. Siya nawa.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum