Solemnity Saint Mary, Mother of God – 1 January 2023
Lectionary Readings: Num.6:22-27, Ps.66:2-18.104.22.168, Gal. 4:4-7, Luke. 2:16-21
Theme: The reason for our joy is Christ the Incarnate Word
The Gospel reading and feast of today are a bit difficult to comment on but they are interrelated through their subject matter and they allow one to recognize a mother who gave birth to one who respects the Sabbath and a mother who gave birth to a generation of believers and most of all to the mother who carries, gave birth and reared the Word, the Son of God. Around the year 400 the title of Mary as the Mother of God had made many personalities inside the Church cast their held faith and words into the minds of many believers. Among them was Saint Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria who refuted Nestorius’ held belief that the Virgin Mary is the mother of Christ and not the mother of God. On the other hand, St. Cyril asserted that “It was not that an ordinary man was born first of the Holy Virgin, on whom afterward the Word descended; what we say is that, being united with the flesh from the womb, (the Word) has undergone birth in the flesh, making the birth in the flesh His own…” To this we can connect the priestly blessing, our first reading, from the book of Numbers; “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The LORD looks upon you kindly and gives you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.” The blessing indeed happened; the Lord indeed has been gracious to us by giving us his only beloved Son. Indeed, he let his face shine upon us for through his Son we have seen the image of the invincible God. Indeed, he gave and continually gives us peace, through the promise of everlasting life with him. Indeed, we are invoking the name of the Lord, upon the Israelites, for Jesus, the Christ is indeed born of Mary with Joseph, his foster father, an Israelite of Royal blood. Jesus was raised and taught according to their customs and tradition. He participated in the Sabbath and their feasting, he entered their synagogues, and he spoke to both Israelites and us gentiles proclaiming His immense love for us.
It is interesting how Luke presented the character of Mary when he wrote; “When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary Treasured all these words and ponder them in her heart…” Mary’s cause of amazement was that after carrying the word incarnate in her womb for 9 months alas, she completed the cycle of motherhood of giving birth to a human and divine son. Thus, slowly the immense love of God is unfolding in the life of many. The salvific action of God is taking place, and upon hearing the news from the shepherds, Mary realized in great amazement that salvation is not limited only to the tribes of Israel but to all humankind. These events caused her to ponder what would be the next course of events for his son. Mary would be much more amazed and would continue to ponder on how immense God’s love is for us. And all these events were happening not somewhere else but, in her womb, and her being, to the shepherds and the travelers. Truly the blessing of Moses, which originated from the Divine, occurred and unfolded before their very eyes as it was loudly expressed in the Tehillim verses: “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing of his glorious name; give him glorious praise. Say to God: “How awesome your deeds!” Now her joy is the joy of many: her treasure during the Annunciation is revealed not only to her but to heavenly and earthly beings alike. To the shepherds the message for us is that the joy of salvation must be guarded and nurtured. To the traveling wise men the message for us is that we must be wise in following the sign of ages and distinguishing the way that leads to Christ. We too need to proclaim Christ among those whom we are going to meet along our life’s journey and be reminded that faith and hope in Christ is a lifelong journey. From the Virgin Mary and Joseph, we learn to be prudent, humble, and obedient to the call of the divine. Lastly, the message came through the angels – it is of divine origin. One must pay attention to the origin of the promises and of the news that one is receiving and hearing. The source must be of divine inspiration in the light of faith in Christ the Incarnate Word.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How can I distinguish the way that leads to Christ? 2. How can I recognize the joy that is coming from Christ? 3. How can I share the joy of Christ with others?
Bibliography: The Catholic Study Bible 3rd ed. New American Bible Revised Edition (2016) Oxford University Press.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Jefferson Philip Jacob Reyes, Israel, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2018