1 January 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Numbers 6, 22-27 + Psalm 67 + Galatians 4, 407 + Luke 2, 16-21
We are on “theological thin ice” when we call Mary “The Mother of God.” No one gave birth to God, but there is truth in saying that Mary gave birth to the Son of God. It takes some spiritual maturity to get this right, and when we do, some important things are then said about you and me. Divinity taking on human nature changes our knowledge of who we are and of our destiny. It allows us to understand God’s nature more fully; but this does not mean that understanding God, ourselves or our role in the divine drama is simple. It isn’t. It isn’t easy, and we don’t always fully understand what God is doing, and how God’s plan is going to work out.
Mary didn’t either, and I think that is what draws us to church today; the fact that what Christmas means, and how it is supposed to work out is not easy to understand. Those shepherd boys who showed up and told Mary and Joseph what they had heard must have come as a complete surprise. Luke tells us that others must have been there too, and they were amazed at what the shepherds had to say. That does not mean they understood what it was all about. In fact, I think it suggests that they might have been standing around shaking their heads. To be amazed does not suggest understanding. It might at first bring disbelief or confusion since none of this makes sense. It does not fulfill their expectations, and it isn’t the way they thought a messiah was going to come.
We must not romanticize our sense of Mary’s role. There is no reason to believe that she understood what it meant that her son was Messiah. There is no reason to believe that she understood the way in which Jesus was the Son of God. She could never have known that her son would die as he did, much less understand the significance of it. What matters, and what is important is that even though she did not understand, she believed. She kept faith with God, and that meant raising her son like every other Jewish boy, teaching him Torah, feeding and caring for him. What she shows us all and what we are reminded of this day is that we can accept God’s ways and even be major players in God’s plan even when we do not understand the ways of God. There is nothing wrong nor any weakness in not understanding. What matters is that even when we do not understand we keep faith with God, and do what Mary did. She just pondered. That’s the word this translation uses. It means, that she just remembered – she remained close to and joined in faith with God.
God’s ways are revealed to us over time and in the development of tradition. Because Mary became the Mother of God, the Son of God was born among us, and it is through Jesus what we are adopted into God’s family. By becoming “Mother of God” she allowed us all to become children of God, and celebrating and remembering that truth is a good way to begin this New Year. We are God’s children who can cry out: “Abba! Father.”