Nm 6:22-27 | Ps 67 | Gal 4:4-7 | Lk 2:16-21
Today’s gospel scene of the shepherds visiting the newborn Jesus takes place in what our second reading refers to as “the fullness of time.” There, Paul says to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” The nativity scenes of our heart and imagination are simple, heartwarming, and gentle, inviting us to imagine the newborn baby surrounded by love and light.
While the world at the time was in turmoil (and still remains) chaos seems to have stopped for a moment as cattle are lowing, shepherds are visiting, and magi are on their way. Mary and Joseph’s child was healthy; they had accommodations, though simple ones; and visitors had begun arriving. I would imagine that many new parents feel in these moments of new life that all is right with the world and a certain sense of fullness is settling in. Mary and Joseph would have been no different.
In the larger view, the fullness of time that Paul refers to is the full blossom of the expectations of God’s people, the shift from a time of anticipation for God’s Anointed to a time of fulfillment. The Holy Family is at the epicenter of that shift. When the shepherds arrive, they share the message of the angels, the confirming truth that Jesus is Savior, Messiah, and Lord. The message we heard today tells us that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
This isn’t the only time Luke tells us that Mary pondered or treasured or reflected on things in her heart. It happened earlier when Gabriel shared the news that she was chosen to bear God’s Son. It will happen again when Joseph and Mary take the infant Jesus to be consecrated at the temple and are met by Simeon and Anna, who confirm that their child is the sign of salvation and the fulfillment of their desires. And then, again, we will be told that Mary keeps all things in her heart when she and Joseph find their twelve-year-old son conversing with the temple rabbis, feeling quite at home in his “Father’s house.”
On this day, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. She participated in bringing the Word to flesh and must have spent her lifetime digesting what it all meant, taking out each of those treasured memories and perplexing encounters—of angels and shepherds and old men and rabbis—holding them up to the light to deepen her understanding, to help form her conscience and her actions, and to fuel her imagination for what God was doing. As Mary pondered these things, I have no doubt that she grew in the courage she would need to face whatever lay ahead for her and her son.
But let’s not leave our reflections there. Let’s ponder, along with Mary, what we have been told and have experienced of her son in our lives:
If we have experienced the mercy of Jesus, how has it planted in us the gift of gratitude and the ability to extend mercy to others?
If we have received healing, how has that experience with the Lord reshaped our lives, our sense of purpose?
If we have known darkness and fear, how has the presence of Jesus, the Savior, given us the strength to stand with courage and move forward?
If we have been in need of correction, how have our paths been straightened?
Let’s hold these moments in our hearts and, following the example of Mary, never tire of taking them out to reflect on their meaning.