Friday, December 31, 2010

Gospel for Jan 1, Solemnity: The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

From: Luke 2:16-21

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Continuation)
[16] And they (the shepherds) went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. [17] And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. [19] But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Circumcision of Jesus
[21] And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angels before he was conceived in the womb.

15-18. The birth of the Savior Messiah is the key event in the history of mankind, but God wanted it to take place so quietly that the world went about its business as if nothing had happened. The only people he tells about it are a few shepherds. It was also to a shepherd, Abraham, that God gave his promise to save mankind.

The shepherds make their way to Bethlehem propelled by the sign they have received. And when they verify it they tell what they heard from the angel and about seeing the heavenly host. They are the first witnesses of the birth of the Messiah. "The shepherds were not content with believing in the happy event which the angel proclaimed to them and which, full of wonder, they saw for a fact; they manifested their joy not only to Mary and Joseph but to everyone and, what is more, they tried to engrave it on their memory. 'And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.' And why would they not have wondered, seeing on earth him who is in heaven, and earth and heaven reconciled; seeing that ineffable Child who joined what was heavenly--divinity--and what was earthly--humanity--creating a wonderful covenant through this union. Not only were they in awe at the mystery of the Incarnation, but also at the great testimony born by the shepherds, who could not have invented something they had not heard and who publish the truth with a simple eloquence" (Photius, "Ad Amphilochium", 155).

16. The shepherds hasten because they are full of joy and eager to see the Savior. St Ambrose comments: "No one seeks Christ halfheartedly" ("Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam., in loc."). Earlier on, the evangelist observed that our Lady, after the Annunciation, "went in haste" to see St Elizabeth (Lk 1:39). A soul who has given God entry rejoices that God has visited him and his life acquires new energy.

19. In very few words this verse tells us a great deal about our Lady. We see the serenity with which she contemplates the wonderful things that are coming true with the birth of her divine Son. She studies them, ponders them and stores them in the silence of her heart. She is a true teacher of prayer. If we imitate her, if we guard and ponder in our hearts what Jesus says to us and what he does in us, we are well on the way to Christian holiness and we shall never lack his doctrine and his grace. Also, by meditating in this way on the teaching Jesus has given us, we shall obtain a deeper understanding of the mystery of Christ, which is how "the Tradition that comes from the Apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth" (Vatican II, "Dei Verbum", 8).

21. On the meaning and rite of circumcision, see the note on Lk 1:59. "Jesus" means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation", that is, Savior. This name was given the Child not as the result of any human decision but in keeping with the commandment of God which the angel communicated to the Blessed Virgin and to St Joseph (cf. Lk 1:31; Mk 1:21).

The Son of God became incarnate in order to redeem and save all men; so it is very fitting that he be called Jesus, Savior. We confess this in the Creed: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven." "There were indeed many who were called by this name [...]. But how much more appropriate it is to call by this name our Savior, who brought light, liberty and salvation, not to one people only, but to all men, of all ages--to men oppressed, not by famine, or Egyptian or Babylonian bondage, but sitting in the shadow of death and fettered by the galling chains of sin and of the devil" ("St Pius V Catechism", I, 36).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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