A Cycle – Feast of Mary Mother of God 22
With two thousand years of tradition and teaching we have no problems accepting the gospel message about the virgin birth of Jesus or with accepting him as the Son of God. But if you go back in time, you can imagine how any of those claims sounded to anyone hearing the message of his birth by the angels. We know Josephs reaction to Mary’s pregnancy was shock, disappointment, painful, and possibly other emotions. We know Mary’s reaction to the angel’s pronouncement of her having a son was “how can this happen?”
The angel responded to her question by saying, “the Holy Spirit will overshadow you.” That seemed impossible, but her response was to say, “let it be done to me.” Up to that time in salvation history, in fact up to Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out on specific people for a specific task. Men and women, all chosen by God at various times and gifted by the Holy Spirit for specific missions had the Spirit descend upon them equipping them for the mission God intended for them.
Moses, Elijah, Abraham, Jeremiah, Samuel, David, and the list goes of people on whom the Spirit was given. But Mary would not have considered herself equal to any of them. She did not know about her immaculate conception of how she was prepared for this moment since her conception. Nothing in the scriptures reveals to us she would have known this was coming. As she grew up in a small village, the daughter of a poor family, she would have considered herself unimportant. But perhaps that is the key to us relating to Mary because we are all called to be Mary to others. In fact, Jesus himself tell sus “…anyone who does the will of my Father who is in heaven is mother to me…” (Mt. 12:50).
Ordinary is just what God needs us to be, consider his twelve disciples. He did not select the learned, or those educated in the scriptures or those from the priestly class of society. No, he chose fishermen, tax collectors, men who had no standing in the community. On the night of his birth who does the angel appear to announce the birth of Jesus. The angel appears to shepherds. Shepherds at the time of Jesus were low in society, almost outcast, ruffians, hired to do a thankless job by wealthy individuals and ignored by their employers as long as their sheep were guarded.
That night, the town of Bethlehem was full of travelers from all classes of society and the angel appears to a group of individuals others would ignore and shy away from. Why announce the birth of the Son of God to these outcasts of society instead of to those staying in Bethlehem? That alone should tell us something of who is important to God and to Jesus. After the angel’s appearance the shepherds did what the owners hired them not to do and that was to leave the sheep unattended to go see Jesus for themselves. If they lost that job, who would hire them? They sacrificed everything to go encounter Jesus and it changed them.
What and who do we need to leave behind as we are called to respond to the invitation of Christ to follow him? Interesting isn’t it, we are called, and it is a personal and direct invitation to go before Christ and like Mary allow him to come into us and be born. Or like Joseph, accept the impossible or like the shepherd’s risk everything for what, a moment in the presence of Jesus.
In the twenty first chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus, after his resurrection and just before his ascension, appears to the disciples on the shore of the Lake Galilee. It is an interesting encounter which you should read because of his conversation with Peter. Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times. Then after Peter affirms his love of Jesus, he is told to follow him and is told it will cost him his life. There is a cost of discipleship and perhaps that is why we resist the invitation to discipleship. But that is another homily for another day. For today let us remain with our response to Jesus. In the call to follow Jesus we have options to say yes or to turn away like so many did. What Peter is offered is not a comfortable religion nor will it be clear to Peter what will be demanded of him by Jesus.
What is interesting about this dialogue between Peter and Jesus is as Jesus invites Peter to follow him is where Peters concern was. It was not about himself but about someone else. Peter is concerned about the “one Jesus loves.” Jesus replies to Peters question about John was to say, ‘what concern is that to you, follow me” (Jn.21:22).
We concern ourselves about so many things in our journey into the heart of God. But God has shown us, time and time again in the scriptures, with the call comes the equipping to achieve intimacy with God and all those concerns of ours will take care of themselves. The shepherds were not concerned about the owner’s sheep or the owners. Mary was not concerned about the law and her being stoned because of her unwed pregnancy. Joseph was not concerned about her being pregnant and took her into his house. The shepherds were not concerned about their lack of status, and they shared the message of the angels with anyone who would listen. They came out of obscurity to become witnesses of God’s grace and all who heard it were amazed.
What about us, who are we sharing the message with? What is the message we are empowered to share? Is it to come to church and encounter the Son of God. Is our message one of salvation and forgiveness because we have experience it or is our message it powerless because we are not certain where we stand with God. This day tells us where we stand with God, he sent his only Son so that those who believe may not perish but have eternal life. There is no other message, other than we are loved, and God desires us to come and experience the wonder of his gift of grace.
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Well… As always there is so much in the Deacon’s message to take away, but today and since I’m working on my own family with this task and that is to get my family (at least) back to church. As stated below by the Dcn…
What about us, who are we sharing the message with? What is the message we are empowered to share? Is it to come to church and encounter the Son of God.
I’m amazed how much my family enjoys the Christmas Mass, but will not come to church beyond that – well some of them, not all
Regardless and not only my family, but so many, many folks I know who I need to do a much better job of getting them back to Mass.
It’s great to hear the calling of our Lord to follow him Often I do not leave my sin life behind, which may be preventing me from bringing Christ to others. When Jesus says to follow him, and to bring him to others, I often do not know how to do that. Until today, where inviting people back to Mass to encounter the ‘Living God’ is seemingly a simple task
For the New Year, this will be my Goal!
Happy Feast Day Mother Mary and Happy New Year to all!