Mother of God feast Day
Hanukah, quanza, whatever else out there combining it with New Years and we roll it all together into a single Happy Holidays. Us self-conscious or rather liturgically aware church goers say Happy Advent up until the day of Christmas itself and then these past 7 days realize that Christmas is now celebrated and will be all the way until the baptism of the Lord on January 9th, but what does all of this really mean to us anyways? Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, not because our credit card debit is suddenly at an all time high or we have already gained at least 7 lbs from the extra feasting, but because Jesus on some level just seems so much closer. To say Merry Christmas of even God bless you are more than mere words they are phrases of praise, lines uttered from our own lips where we willfully acknowledge that we have a relationship with Jesus and that this relationship puts the happy in my holidays.
Certainly the shepherds from our Gospel get this. Dr. Scott Hahn, a professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville states that shepherds were not what we think they were, we might naturally connect to the good biblical figures of old like David or Moses having their humble beginnings as a shepherd. Given Dr. Hahn’s research he discovered that at the time of Jesus the reality of a shepherd being a meek and humble country boy was simply false. In fact, he found that what the tax collector was to the city the shepherd was to the country. They were looked at as liars, thieves, and completely untrustworthy to the extent that in the court of law their testimony as a witness could never be held as credible evidence. These are the characters who are singlehandedly invited by angels to the birthday party of Jesus. God makes a point that no matter our past, where we have been or what we are ashamed of nothing can dissuade us from Him including us in his glory. The gift that He gives is one that can be unwrapped again and again each day as we like the shepherds seek to discover where Christ is in our midst. He never disappoints. “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”
But no one knows Jesus like Mary knows Jesus. Only mother knows those stories about their baby and how they slept, how they ate, the goofy phrases they came up with, their funny quirks and the one million and one different ways their child is special and without the help of smartphones Mary kept all these things about her son Jesus recording them with the ink of love on the tablet of her heart. Mary was the mother not just of any baby she was the Mother of God, as we celebrate today. She cared for and coddled Jesus Christ—truly God/ truly Man. In one sense her job couldn’t have been too difficult because it wasn’t like she had to ground Jesus for misbehaving in synagogue or scold Him for not doing His daily chores, since He was perfect and all, but at the same time her task like any mother’s was not an cake walk—having to be detached from all possessions picking up and leaving on multiple occasions, her husband dying, her Son receiving criticism from the whos who of the city and then finally dying before her very eyes. Being mom to any child is a challenge, but then what does her son do but give her the work of mothering all of us, as He did with some of his last words on the cross.
I recently heard the story from Fr. Jeremy Leatherby a priest of the diocese of Sacramento, California. Who was asked to anoint a woman in the last hours of life. This woman was a mother, she herself had 11 biological children, and then decided to have 11 foster children. As Fr. Jeremy walked in to her room and greeted herthis woman who had bedridden for 15 years, suffering tremendously in body and soul had a beaming smile on her face and said father come here so I can see you and love you. She then proceeded to say Father can you do me a favor and tell me something about Mary? Fr. Leatherby swept of his feet said you mean, Mary the mother of God. She said yes father please. After giving a little discourse on some of his own personal insights into the Mother of God he said, do you mind telling me why you wanted me to talk about our lady. This 82 year old pillar of faith said, Father you know, Mary has always been special to me, and at the age of 6 I was orphaned my father had already died and my mom passed away and I was put into a Catholic orphanage and at Mass that first Sunday I was there and never before had I heard about our Mother Mary, and what was said of her was so beautiful after Mass I went over to a statue of Mary in the Church and I said, Mary you son never had a sister and I don’t have a mother, I promise to be a sister to your son all the days of my life if you will be a mother to me. The elderly woman smiled and said never has my mother failed.
My brothers and sisters as we embark on a new year—a new season of our faith life I invite us to consecration this year to Mary, to grow in relationship with Jesus with her by our side. We too our are no good schlubs like the shepherds but we come here to our Bethlehem of this altar discovering Jesus and His Mother a love given and unwrapped. Come let us receive Him, come let us adore Him and utter with our whole self. Merry Christmas.