2012-01-01, Christmas Octave B – Mother of God, Puzzle Pieces

Homily 01-01-12
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God,
Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67:2-3,5,6,8; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, did not come into the world as a conquering war hero.  He did not come as a prophetic preacher or a scientific genius.  Jesus, our Divine, yet Human God, entered our world in the same manner as every one of us, through the womb of a woman.  Yet, that womb, that tabernacle, that holy ark, had to be pure enough to conceive and house the very Body of God within it.

She was more radiant than the brightest star.  She was more precious than the most delicate flower.   The purest from her very conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and with the blessing of God the Father, bore within her womb, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord.  And in doing so, Mary became the very Mother of God, providing the source of His Humanity, while the Holy Spirit provided the source of His Divinity.

Today, on this eighth day Octave of Christmas, on the day of Jesus’ circumcision and naming, we recognize and celebrate Mary’s Motherhood.  It was a mystery, a puzzle even to her, as she lived out the events of the Nativity.  You see, it’s always a lot easier to look back and understand all that went on, than it is to live through it, not knowing what’s going to happen next.  But it’s how we live through it that makes all the difference in life.

It reminds me of how every Christmas holiday we, as a family, have made a tradition of putting together one of those thousand piece puzzles.  Everyone contributes to getting some section of it put together: the sky, the mountains, the houses, the lake.  Slowly, over the week, it all begins to take shape.  And when it’s completed, it’s easy to look back and see how everything fit together.

Once you see the big picture though, you don’t notice the lines of the pieces anymore.  You don’t even remember how difficult it was getting some of those sections to fit in.  And yet, when that puzzle is finished, each one of us has a feeling of connectedness to it.  We’d put in some significant time.  There were jokes and stories, sharing and giving, all for the common goal.  It’s very much like our faith.  If we stand by idly and just watch, and only look at the big picture without having any connection to it, it will mean much less to us than if we get involved, and learn, and study, and participate.

You see the shepherds witnessed a miracle!  People sometimes ask me if I believe that there’s life somewhere out there, beyond our planet earth.  “Of course there is,” I answer.  “The Bible tells us so.  There are angels and archangels, and seraphim, and cherubim.  The shepherds and Mary physically and visibly saw them.”  Oh, but they might say, that’s all just a pretty little fairy tale – for the kids.  Well then, was Jesus’ birth just a fairy tale too?  Then what about His miracles, His passion and death, His resurrection and ascension?  What about Pentecost?  Is it all so distant from our reality, that we don’t even believe it anymore?  You see, after that glorious Christmas morning, it was still another 30 years before Jesus would begin his ministry.  Wouldn’t you think that those shepherds forgot all about that crazy vision by then, if they were even still alive, 30 years later?

And yet, we can be certain that Mary didn’t forget.  Mary knew the Scriptures well.  She knew of Isaiah’s prophesy of the suffering servant.  She saw the angel Gabriel.  She experienced the virginal conception and growth of this child within her womb, knowing that she had never been ‘with a man’.   She experienced the miraculous birth of Jesus; without ever losing her virginity and without the pain of childbirth caused by Eve’s original sin, which Mary did not have.  And she heard the story of the shepherds and the angels that glorious morning.  And there was so, so much more to come!

St. Luke tells us that, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  You see, Mary was very carefully putting together all those little puzzle pieces, so that one day it would all make sense.  It would eventually turn into a beautiful picture of God’s enormous Love for all of us.  A picture in which Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds, and the angels, and WE – are all connected.   It’s as huge as the universe and as close as our own beating hearts.

And yet, this picture-puzzle of Life is still not quite complete.  It still needs our contributions in order to make it whole.  And that might seem intimidating.  But we’re not alone in this task.  The Lord will bless us and keep us strong.  We will see those unseen puzzle pieces by the Light of His Face.  We will carry these crosses of life, with jokes, and stories, and sharing, and giving, and sometimes even tears.  And we will be connected to one another and to God.

And like our blessed mother Mary, the Mother of God, we will reflect on all these things in the love of Jesus.  And one day we will just marvel at the magnificent beauty of that ‘Big Picture’.  And we’ll laugh when we look back to see the times of our blindness, when we’ll hear Jesus say, “You see, it was right there, that missing piece.  It was right there all along!”

 jmp 01-01-12

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The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Nm 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.  Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8.

R. (2a) May God bless us in his mercy.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. May God bless us in his mercy.

Gal 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:  When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,  crying out, “Abba, Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.

Lk 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

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