Jan. 1, Solemnity of Mary
Cycle A. Readings:
1) Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
2) Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service
For nine months after the angel Gabriel’s annunciation, Mary pondered his message about her miraculous child to be.
During that time, while visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s unborn baby leapt for joy, and Mary spoke with eloquence and humility about her understanding of God’s action in her life:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. … For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages called me blessed.”
Later when shepherds visited the manger, sharing the good news they had received during their night watch, Mary again reflected on these things in her heart.
In today’s Gospel we see Mary pondering and accepting her crucial role in the salvation of humankind. Luke’s subsequent narrative further reveals the burdens placed on her heart as the mother of Christ — and challenges us to likewise ponder and accept God’s call to each of us.
As Mary takes Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple, we recall that she was following the Mosaic law of her time — a time when Jews believed that life is governed by the Ten Commandments as written on the tablets that once were stored in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple’s innermost chamber. Now we realize Mary, as mother of God, is the new Ark of the Covenant.
Yet we know Mary’s joy was tempered when she encountered Simeon inside the Temple and he gives her something more difficult to ponder when he said, “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel … and you yourself a sword will pierce.”
For me, the challenge began while in my 20s. Feeling called to the priesthood, I consulted priests, read Thomas Merton voraciously, prayed and took frequent retreats. Eventually, the deciding factor was my fear that I could fall into spiritual arrogance as a celibate priest on a pedestal, taking pride in my sacrifices for the Lord and parishioners.
Choosing marriage has drawn me into the mystery of Mary’s simultaneous joy and fear about her Son’s destiny, challenging me to test my faith as a husband, father and ordinary guy. How would I handle working hard for a living, possibly losing a job or having a sick or handicapped child?
Accepting God’s call to marriage and the diaconate has allowed me to follow Mary as a grateful, lowly servant praising God.
Crying out Abba, Father, how can I replace my tendency to control with trust in the Lord?