January 1, 2016

Nativity: January 1, 2016


"And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Luke 2:19)

Imagine what was going in Mary’s heart over the last nine months. The Annunciation; the visitation; Joseph’s decision to divorce her; Joseph’s decision to marry her. Then, there’s the census and surprise pilgrimage to Bethlehem. When they arrive in Bethlehem there’s no room; they are not wanted. And, then course, He is born. The Savior of the world is born. The long awaited, promised Messiah is born … through her. Tired, hungry, and alone with her dear husband, Mary holds an infant, yet at the same time holds God Himself. Over the past nine months of her life extraordinary events have been painted on the canvas of extraordinary emotion. Joy; fear; known; unknown; absolute certainty; absolute poverty. Mary has experienced much in her heart over these past months.

Now, all of a sudden, shepherds visit. The quiet intimacy of Joseph embracing Mary as she holds the infant is transformed as strangers enter the cave. The shepherds glorify God and make “known the message that had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17) “All who heard it were amazed”, for inexpressible joy overtakes them all. (Luke 2:18) Soon enough the shepherds depart. After Mary and Joseph celebrate the visit things once again still into silence and “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) With all her emotion, with all that stirs within her heart, Mary goes to God.

No doubt Mary was accustomed to intimate conversation with the Father, “reflecting on them in her heart”. The Church celebrates Mary being presented to the Temple as a young girl. (cf. The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated every November 21st) Essentially, Mary would have been brought to the Temple as a young girl. Numbers 30:4-6 outlines prescriptions for a Jewish woman vowed to perpetual virginity and complete consecration to the Lord. As consecrated to God, Mary’s whole life was for God. Her whole heart was for God. She would have stayed there until she was 14 years-old, then returning home to live with her parents. While at the Temple, Mary would have grown in wisdom, formed in the traditions of Judaism and schooled in the art of prayer. Mary learned at an early age that with all matters of the heart she was to go to God. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19).

Mary knew “where to go” with all the things of her heart. She would go to God. She would share her feelings. She would release her questions. She wait on the Lord’s response. Mary would go to God. Likewise, each of us must ask ourselves where do we go? When there is joy, where do you go? When you’ve been blessed, where do you go? When life throws you a curve ball, where do you go? When you are struggling, where to you go? When you are lonely, where do you go? Many men turn within because they try to figure things out. When the going gets tough, most men turn go their heads, trying to figure out a solution. Many women desire to express their hearts; however, unfortunately, many women know too well the feeling of not being received or heard. Thus, many women may turn with, more out of feeling alone than anything else.

Merry Christmas. Again today … yes, again today, we proclaim: Merry Christmas. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) You now have a place to go. You can go to Jesus. You can go to the Father He reveals. You can go to the Spirit He promised. Merry Christmas, you can go to God. Mary is our model, for we to can go to God just as she did. Do you go to God … with everything? What’s your usual pattern … do you go to yourself … or to the world … or to God? Stay in the nativity. Hold the infant Mary. Look at Mary, deep within her eyes, and ask her to teach you how she would go to God with her heart.

For your prayer

The Psalms are the sacred music of a chosen people. The Psalms were written as songs to praise God. Imagine how Mary would have prayed Psalm 23. Begin by slowly reading Psalm 23. Read it a few times. Imagine Mary singing this Psalm as she processes the events that have unfolded. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:19. Be in the scene. Be with Mary. Now, ask Mary if you too can hold the firstborn son. Ask Mary if you can hold Jesus. Ask her to teach how to go to God with everything. 

Today's prayer

"Father, I thank you for the gift of Christ. Give me the graces I need to go to you with everything."

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2012. Expressed written permission required for duplication.