Today is both the beginning of the new calendar year and the final day of the Octave of Christmas – the one continuous Day of Christmas in which we ponder the greatest blessing God could ever give his people, his own Son. On this eighth day, we celebrate the joyful Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman chosen to be the channel of God’s grace, the holy Mother of God, the Theotokos.
The first reading for today speaks of Aaron and his sons invoking God’s blessing on his people. Jesus Christ, born of Mary, is the blessing which the Father bestows upon humanity. Without Christ we would be trapped in a hopeless condition, from which we could never free ourselves. The Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) proclaims this truth when it states: “Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.”
Today’s Psalm, written long before the coming of Christ, is a prayer asking God to have mercy on his people: “May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us. So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.” In the Christmas Season, we celebrate the amazing truth that God has heard this prayer and responded in a way beyond all expectation. He has had pity on his people! He has truly let his face shine upon us! He has revealed his Way, and the gift of his salvation to the world!
The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “made known the message that had been told them about this child.” The message which they made known had been given to them by an angel earlier that night: “Today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:11). These shepherds were blessed to be the first to begin spreading this good news – that God has come in the form of this newborn child, to save his people.
In the second reading, St. Paul speaks about how God accomplished this great work of the Incarnation: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” This is the truth that we celebrate with today’s feast: that God came among us to save his people through the cooperation and participation of a woman, the Virgin Mary. God willed to become incarnate to save us, but he did not do this alone. He asked Mary to participate in his saving work. He did not force her, as he never forces us. She had a free choice to make, to say “yes” or “no” to his will. We cannot know what would have happened if she had said “no,” but we do know that her “yes” allowed God to take flesh in her womb, and ultimately to be born for us on Christmas Day.
Paul tells us that the result of Mary’s “yes” is that Jesus has ransomed us and given us the power to receive adoption as children in the family of God. He goes further to say that since we are children of God, we are his heirs as well. What do heirs receive? Everything which belonged to their parents! So Paul is telling us that, as God’s children, we receive as an inheritance everything which belongs to our Father in Heaven!
All these blessings are given to us through the merits won for us by Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who took on flesh and was born of a woman. And God was able to do this because Mary gave her complete and total “yes” to his will. We see now how profound is the teaching which we have been pondering all week, that we become members of the family of God by keeping our hearts centered on Christ and by doing the Father’s will. Mary did the Father’s will and God took on flesh in the world! We are called to do the same.
In the family of God, we are not only called to be his children; we are also to be his bride, joined in most intimate union with him. Today’s feast reminds us that we are also called to be his mother. Jesus affirmed this when he said, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:50). Here he revealed an amazing reality: every time we say “yes” to God’s will in our lives, we make Jesus present anew in the world. He takes on flesh in the world – in our flesh – as he is able to act in and through us to continue his saving work here and now.
Mary is our perfect model for this process. Her “yes” to God was not limited to one moment. Her whole life was a continual “yes” to God. The Gospel tells us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary made of her heart a temple in which every word and action of Jesus was pondered and given the central place of honor. In this way she continued to participate in his saving work throughout her life.
Sinful and weak though we are, God calls us to follow Mary’s example, to keep our hearts always as temples for his word, striving to give his will first place in our lives. In this way we too can cooperate in making Christ truly present in the world – and cooperate in bringing God’s blessing upon his people. We too can serve as “mothers” of God!
What is my response to the love the Father has for me in giving me his son? In what ways have I experienced the love of God and Mary as my mother? Being sinful and weak, how do I keep my heart as God’s temple, giving his will the first place in my life?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.