Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
Numbers 6:22-27 + Galatians 4:4-7 + Luke 2:16-21
Catechism Link: CCC 487
“When eight days were completed for His circumcision, He was named Jesus, the Name given Him by the angel ….”
The story of the sisters Martha and Mary receiving Jesus into their home is one of the touchstones of Catholic spirituality. The contrast between Martha and Mary as Jesus visits them brings from Him a declaration which He makes not just for Martha, but for the sake of each of us. You and I would start this year off right if we took to heart the Lord’s counsel to Martha: “… you are worried and anxious about many things. Only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part, and it shall not be taken from her.”
What a peaceful year the next twelve months would be if, every single day, the first thought in your mind upon waking was, “Today I will choose the better part”: the “better part” being attentiveness to Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to be more than just a part of our lives.
He wants to be our very life. He wants us to say with Saint Paul: “The life I lead now is not my own.” My life belongs to Christ. This new year will be a year of peace as I imitate Martha’s sister, Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and drinking in His words.
This sister of Martha, of course, is not the same Mary whom the Church honors todays. We honor today, on this eighth day of Christmas, the holy Mother of God. But in today’s Gospel passage, St. Luke the Evangelist says something that evokes that Gospel story about Martha and Mary. As St. Luke describes both the Birth of Jesus as well as the shepherds making known the message they received from the angels, he notes that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Of course, for anyone to speak about reflecting on things “in one’s heart” is to speak metaphorically. Does a person really reflect “in one’s heart”? Doesn’t a person reflect in one’s brain?
Maybe St. Luke the Evangelist is pointing out a difference between two very different types of thinking. Maybe when we’re calculating our finances, we’re thinking inside our brain. Maybe when we’re tending to the household chores, like Martha, we’re thinking inside our brain. Our brain is where we think about accomplishing things in the here and now.
On the other hand, maybe our heart is where we think about the past and the future. Maybe our heart is where the present moment finds some room to breathe, and expand beyond the simple here and now.
Maybe our heart is where we need to live more of this new year than we did during the last. The Mother of God is our Mother, also. We are her children, and if we follow her example over the next fifty-two weeks, she will lead us in all things to Jesus. Reflect on all these things in your heart throughout this new year: “all these things” being the Gospel, the Good News that God has proclaimed on this earth in order to transform the meaning of every event, relationship, and action in your life.
Many persons’ resolutions for a new year regard physical health, such as joining a gym or changing one’s diet, or quitting smoking. Even more important, however, is our spiritual health. The start of this year is a great opportunity to make a change for the better in our spiritual habits.
On today’s feast in honor of Mary, the Mother of God, we celebrate the spiritual truth that it’s through Mary that Jesus received human life, and it’s through her intercession that you and I have spiritual life. Mary, in all things, leads us to her Son. So when we turn to Mary, she says those words that she spoke at the wedding of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.”
Mary is for us not only an intercessor, but a model as well. She is a model disciple, which means that she herself did whatever Jesus told her. But that right action on her part was only possible because she always first listened to Jesus. This is true in the spiritual life of each of us striving to be a faithful disciple: doing follows hearing. Both our doing and our hearing have to be in accord with the Lord’s will, but in the right order: hearing first, and doing second.