Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God - January 1, 2011 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
A Mother's Thoughts
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Do you remember hearing for the first time what your mommy always knew about you? Mother's are like that. They are intuitive - often unerring about what they have reflected on about their husband or children - thoughts that lay deep in their hearts for many years. And then you make that major decision and Mom says, "I always knew you would one day decide to do that!"
Mary, the Holy Mother of God, carried many thoughts about the words given her by Gabriel and Simeon and Anna. The deep mysteries of our redemption became the focus of her meditation - of her deepest prayers - voiceless prayers of her heart when her lips moved but not a sound was heard. Hannah, who bore Samuel the prophet, prayed that way. Now Mary, whose Son was Prophet, Priest, and King, prayed too. Then one day a sword pierced her heart. News came to her that John the Baptist had declared her Son to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
She was probably not more than 16 years old - maybe only 14 or 15 years old the scholars speculate. The Mother of the Redeemer learned somewhat abruptly through the visitation of Gabriel that she was 'highly favored by God.' And the salutation, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" left the young virgin 'troubled.' And no one is without sympathy for Mary when she questions the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a Son, and that she should name him Jesus. And then the angel erupts with a litany of greatness concerning this child:
He will be great.
He will be called the Son of the Most High.
He will possess the Throne of his father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
His kingdom will have no end!
So how will all this come about? Gabriel gave three words that convey why nothing will be impossible with God. In answer to Mary's question, "How shall this be?" Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit." The greatness of the Deity revealed in the Incarnation is mediated by the Holy Spirit - the power of the Most High, overshadowing Mary. This is how Jesus became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
Perhaps Mary recalled the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of her people. Before time was ever measured, the Spirit of God hovered over the dark waters, when the earth was still without form and empty. Mary would remember when God formed Adam of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. Her thoughts would recount how the Spirit of God came upon the prophets and prophetesses of old and overshadowed Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Law. In that moment of contemplation she received courage born in her by that same Spirit helping her to say, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And as quickly as Gabriel came he left her to 'ponder these things in her heart.'
Mary wants us to come to her Son and she wants us to invite him into our hearts as she invited him into her womb. It is Mary who shows us the way to have an affection for Jesus that is intense and heartfelt. Here, in the spacious depths of our heart, we can discover the friendship of Jesus. There is room in his heart for us. Is there room in your heart for him?
Let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to meet Jesus, to have all the riches of the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2, 3) There is far more than a superficial acquaintance awaiting us in Christ; for our life is hidden with Christ in God. Mary lived her life with an immense awareness of Christ. May we learn to see through Mary's eyes and understand with her what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ and be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-20)
As we come to this Holy Table let us pray: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.'' Amen.