|Graphic from Lyndsey D'Errico's Blog|
Caryl Houslander – laywoman and mystic wrote the following as a reflection about Mary:
“Christ asked Mary of Nazareth for her human nature. For her littleness, her limitations, flesh and blood and bone, five senses, hands and feet, and human heart.
He who was invulnerable asked to be able to feel cold and heat, hunger and thirst, weariness and pain. He who had all things and had made all things asked to be able to be poor and to labor with his hands and look with wonder at the wildflowers. He who was wholly sufficient to himself asked Mary to give him a heart that might be broken. . . . Mary answered ‘yes.’”
In our Gospel today, we contemplate the scene where we see that Mary and Joseph are transients. In this setting, Mary, a young woman in a patriarchal society brought her child into the world without the security of a home. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, the traditional Palestinian way of securing a newborn, and laid him in a manger.
Meanwhile, the first to hear the message were shepherds, themselves a group of laborers of low economic and social rank, who were busy with their flocks. They hurried to Bethlehem and there found Mary and Joseph and the child. “Here the displaced couple, the manger and shepherds together form a clear image that our God comes to the world through the poor, the marginalized, the powerless and the oppressed.”
Our Gospel also tells us that there was something very significant about Mary. Luke writes: “As for Mary, she treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them.” What Luke is telling us is that Mary was someone who throughout her entire life pondered, reflected and listened deeply to God in her life trying to discover how God was present to her in the events that were happening. And in her pondering, she surrendered to trusting so deeply and was open to all possibilities. She allowed God’s love to define her and direct her life rather than let her fears propel her into illusions or darkness!
Mary did not grasp immediately all that she had heard, but listened willingly, letting these events sink into her memory and seeking to work out their meaning. She tried to interpret her life, grasping to understand difficult matters concerning the lives of those she loved.
She pondered in order to fathom the meaning of her experiences and kept on her Gospel path walking by faith having only enough light for the next step. Often Mary carried a great tension within her in which she was helpless to resolve the realities of her life and had to simply embrace them as mystery, accept them and believe, and then go on with her life living with these holy tensions.
Now, on this first day of the New Year, let us ponder over our lives and resolve to commit ourselves to listen as Mary did, and hear God speaking to us in these times of insecurity and uncertainty, through the Scriptures, our prayer, and through all the events in our everyday lives.
So let us be open to the graces of the readings today:
• That like Mary, may we risk our YES to ponder and treasure all things in our hearts – both the ordinary and the extraordinary – then touch into our inner wisdom and let God direct and guide us as we walk this New Year’s path.
• That like Mary, may God grace us in our efforts to ponder life’s events and to empower others as we strive to be voice and heart for peace and justice in our community, church, government, and in our world.
• That like Mary, when we experience a helplessness to resolve the realities of our world around us, let us ask her to intercede for us so that we may learn to accept them, embrace them as mystery, and believe in the power of the Holy One to bring about something new!
• On this World Day of Prayer for Peace, may our world be blessed with new saints and prophets of peace, who will have the vitality, heart, energy, and courage to inspire others to wake up and move mountains to bring about the elimination of poverty, starvation, wars, and environmental chaos.
• Finally, it is because of Mary that Christ now Nazareths and Bethlehems in us. The great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins captures Mary’s significance in his poem entitled,
“The Blessed Virgin Compared to Air We Breathe”: -
Of her who not only
Gave God infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvelous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon and eve;
New Bethlehems, and he born
There, evening, noon and morn . . .