Gospel Reflection 01 Jan - SVD INM - India Mumbai Province

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Gospel Reflection 01 Jan

Mary, Mother of God and New Year [Lk 2:16-21]

01 January 2018

The Message of the Shepherds and Mary’s Faith-Response

Readings: (1) Num 6:22-27 (2) Gal 4:4-7

Theme in brief

Treasuring the Word in our hearts and pondering it

Focus Statement

Mother Church is constantly called to Imitate the following features of Mary’s Motherhood: receiving the Word of God in faith, treasuring it in her heart and pondering over its significance.

Explanation of the text

In today’s gospel text Mary is presented as a model for
reflection and introspection into our life on the basis of God’s Word. When the shepherds heard from the angel the good news of the birth of a Saviour for all people (2:10), they hurried up to Bethlehem to "see this ‘thing’ that has taken place" (2:15). [This word ‘thing’ can also mean an event or word when it is translated from the biblical languages.] So we can understand this passage to mean that the shepherds went to Bethlehem to make known (or proclaim) the words which the Lord had made known (or revealed) to them (2:15).

When they reached, they found a mother, a father and a child lying in the manger (2:16). And the mother whom they found is described as the one who
treasured all their words and pondered them in her heart (2:19). This statement highlights an important aspect of Mary’s motherhood: listening to God’s Word reflectively, keeping it as a precious treasure in her heart and pondering (literally chewing over) its meaning and relevance or significance for her (our) life. The shepherds noticed God’s boundless love revealed through the image of an ordinary family, which is guided by the faith-reflections of a mother. Luke repeats this important trait of Mother Mary later in 2:51 also, where he says that Mary treasured the words of Jesus regarding his mission to be in his Father’s house. As she (as well as Joseph) did not understand those words immediately (2:50), she pondered or deeply reflected over their meaning.
In Luke’s gospel, the shepherds’ going to Bethlehem in haste (2:16) is very much related to Mary’s setting out in haste to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth (1:39) in the sixth month of her pregnancy (1:36). Whereas the haste with which shepherds hurried to Bethlehem implies their eagernessto hear, see and share with others or proclaim the good news of salvation, Mary’s haste refers to her eagerness to serve her relative Elizabeth during her pregnancy. We can imagine how Mary’s faith and reflections on God’s Word overflow into action (that is, service rendered or charity done to the needy).
Further, later in Luke’s gospel we see him presenting Mary as the prototype of all those who become mothers and brothers/sisters of Jesus by hearing the Word of God and doing it, that is,  living by it (Lk 8:19-21). She also becomes the prototype of all those who become blessed because of their hearing andobeying the Word of God (Lk 11:27-28). Hence the title "Blessed Virgin Mother" suits her very well.

Application to life

We begin a New Year on the feast day of the Motherhood of Mary. It is god to ask how New Year is related to this feast? What is the
significance of the connection between Motherhood of Mary and New Year? It is said that the name of the first month of the year, "January" comes from the pagan god of Rome calledJanus.  He was a double-faced god depicted in opposite directions, one face looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This idea fits very well with the features of Mary’s Motherhood. Mary is a model of reflection and introspection on how we lived the past year and how we are going to live the New Year. New Year is a new stage in our life to examine the past and look forward to the future. In spite of some failure of the past and anxieties of the unknown future, we are called to take forward to future withhope.

Socrates, the great Greek philosopher said
, "An unexamined life is not worth living". As Mary ponderedover the words of the shepherds (that is, God’s word) and the events that took place in her life, we too are invited today to reflect over the events of the past year and compare them with the purpose, vision and mission of our life. Each one of us must have a personal vision or personal dream for ourselves. A vision or dream is a mental image or picture of the ideal we wish to realize in our life time. Of course, as believers, our dream must be formulated in line with God’s plan or purpose for our lives. Some people dream only for their prosperity and selfish needs, forgetting totally about the needs of the world, country and humanity. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (former President of India) calls it a small dream. He says that a small dream is a ‘crime’. Yes, it is a crime to be concerned about oneself alone and not at all about problems of the world. As believers, is this the purpose for which God has sent us into the world? Actually, he has sent us with a definite purpose to make a small or big contribution for humanity which is God’s owncause.

New Year is the best opportunity to see whether we have done our dream to our satisfaction. If not, as Abdul Kalam says, we need to activate our inner energy to translate our vision into better action in the New Year. As we read newspapers and watch TV, we come to know about some burning problems of the world such as terrorism, genocide, ethnic fights or riots, hunger or poverty, communal (religion-based) riots, religious fundamentalism, economic recession, environmental degradation, etc. It is right to examine whether we did anything to address or alleviate any of these problems at least in a small way by a small gesture of concern/ opinion/ objection/ opposition/ disapproval/ service in the past year. Do we dream a little bigger dream for this year? Following Mary’s example, we need to introspect or ponder and see whether we are living our lives by chance or by personal choice. What were the wrong choices we made in the last year; and how are we going to make better choices in this year? On the New Year day, our Heavenly Mother invites us to make a review of life and recall to our mind the steps we need to take in order to live a meaningful and purpose-driven life.

Mary is our best guide in this sort of soul-searching questions. She becomes a model believer for her efforts to discover the meaning of life-events in the light of faith. She discovered God’s plans for her by treasuring God’s Word in her heart and pondering over its meaning and relevance. In the light of God’s Word, she reflected deeply on all the events of her life in order to discern what God was saying to her at every stage in her life. She is like those believers who after hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and "bear fruit with patient endurance" (Lk 8:15), as Jesus has explained in the Parable of the Sower. Such believers are like the good soil that produces a hundredfold fruit (Lk 8:15). Like Mother Mary, we too are called to become ‘spiritual mothers’ to others by "doing" God’s Word. Doing God’s Word means living by it. To live by it, we need to receive it in faith and ponder over its implications for our situation. The Church is called the Mother Church. She is called to become what she really is. She truly becomes a spiritual mother by hearing the Word of God and doing it, just like Mother Mary. The feast ofMotherhood of Mary is closely related to the role of the Church (that is, the whole of Christian community) as a mother. By hearing and doing the Word of God, all of us become mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of Jesus, as told by Jesus in Lk 8:21.

Luke mentions Mary’s role of treasuring things in her heart twice in his gospel (cf. the explanation above) to show that she discovered God’s will both in his Word and in her life’s events. She came to know aboutdivine revelation through the message (words) of the shepherds, and God’s will in the event of finding Jesus in the Temple. She understood the full implications of this event only after the resurrection and Pentecost. She had to go on discovering God’s ways gradually till the end of her life. God speaks to us today also through divine revelation (Word of God and its interpretation) as well as through the personal experiences gained through life’s events. But we need to be attuned to what God says as Mary was. Suppose we are attuned to only what the mass media or misguiding companions say, how can we know what God wants to tell us?

These reflections are sent also through a mobile-phone application called ‘WhatsApp.’ Hence, it is a wonderful tool to propagate the Good News and spiritual values. But we are warned to use it with discipline and
prudence. More than 80% of the health tips (often confusing, contradicting each other and misleading us), political and business matters that are blindly forwarded by many, including some priests and religious, in WhatsApp, are a bluff or fake and unsubstantiated. Suppose we are attuned only to this bluff and baseless propaganda, we will be fully misguided and may get even addicted to it. Then we shall lose our life’s purpose. To counter the evil influence of this media we must choose what we see and read in WhatsApp or any other mass media and seek guidance of the Word of God. Many spend so much time to read all fake ad bluff messages in WhatsApp and go on forwarding them without any verification and bypass or delete good life-guiding and animating spiritual messages. This is not what Mother Mary did.

Further, our contemplation on the Word of God and spiritual reflections should
overflow in joyful servicelike Mary’s going out "with haste" to minister to her needy relative Elizabeth (1:39). Let us begin this year with a resolve to be more sensitive to the needs of the needy and the suffering humanity like Mary, and be more eager to go out to joyfully serve such people. Do our religious practices and devotion to Mother Mary prompt or motivate us to go out of ourselves in serving the needy and the underprivileged?

Response to God's Word

Like Mother Mary, ponder over these questions as you begin a New Year: (1) In my personal conduct what will be my guiding principle in this new year? (2) In my family/ social relationships/ community life what will be my guiding principle? (3) In my workplace what will be my guiding principle? Could I have done better in the past year? How did I spend my time? What good did I do and what did I fail to do? Can I pick up one or two wider issues/ problems/ concerns/ needs of people of my area or of my country and think of what I like to say or do about it in my own little way, at least by a small gesture?? For whom? How? What is my bigger dream for this year? How can I discover God’s plan for my family and its future with Mary’s guidance? Please entrust this New Year, your and your family’s future, the future of the Church, the future of humanity, the future of the entire universe to our Heavenly Mother’s care

A prayer

Thank you God for giving us Mary as our best guide in some soul-searching questions we need to address as we begin a new year. Grant that like her we may hear your Word in faith, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and produce a hundredfold fruit. Like her, may we become model believers discovering your plans for us by treasuring your Word in our hearts and pondering over its meaning and relevance for our lives. Give us the grace to "do" or live God’s Word by our witness. By our ardent prayer and joyful service, may we become mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us that we may be faithful to our personal vision and mission in this year. Amen.

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