1 Jan 2016
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
“Mary, did you know?” is the title of a popular Christmas song. And it asks that question over and over again: “Mary, did you know?” “Did you know your baby boy will someday walk on water? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? That this child you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you? Mary, did you know?”
Did she know the child born to her was God himself? And that’s a tough question. But Scripture seems to show that she was a path of discovering exactly what and whom her child was.
When the angel Gabriel came, he told her: “You will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But there were lots of “sons of God” around at the time—and they were all entirely human: Julius Caesar, King David, the kings of Israel, Samson, Samuel. Did Mary know that her child would be the one and only true Son of God?
And then Mary ran and visited Elizabeth. And Elizabeth cried out and said: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” And John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth called Mary’s child her “Lord.” But how did Mary understand that? Did she know that her child was the definitive Lord of all creation?
And then Mary gave birth, and the shepherds came to the manger, sharing all that had been revealed to them about who and what this child was. And we find that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” The more she heard from others about her child, the more she wondered about him. She loved him as any mother would love her child, and yet, she was coming to realize there was more to him than perhaps she imagined.
And this was confirmed when Mary and Joseph presented the child in the Temple. We know about the old man, Simeon, and the prophetess, Anna—both of whom saw the little child as the long-awaited Redeemer. Luke tells us that “the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.’”
Later on, when the twelve-year old Jesus was found in the Temple, Mary and Joseph didn’t know what to think when he’d said he was in “his Father’s house.” There, again, she kept this “close to heart” and pondered it.
And, finally today, on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we hear that Jesus is given his name. Even his name—Jesus—is another revelation about who Mary’s son really is. Of course, the name “Jesus” means “God saves.” He truly is the Savior, the Messiah; “God-with-us.”
“Mary, did you know?” Did you know . . . that the child born to you was God himself?” And the answer (it seems) is: Not entirely. But, of course, in time, she came to know it. Just as Jesus himself “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him,” so Mary also grew in understanding of who Jesus was and is.
And we might ask the same question of ourselves. When we hear the words of Scripture, do we know it’s God speaking to us? When our conscience tells us to do something, or not to do something, do we know it’s God right there inside us? When we come up at Communion and let that little host fall into our hands, do we know what we’re holding? Chances are, the answer is: Yes and No.
Just like Mary, we’re gradually coming to understand who and what Jesus is to us. Of course, when she was assumed into heaven, she could see him in all his glory. Then her pure faith in Jesus as the Son of the Most High came to fruition. She could (and does) enjoy him for exactly who he is: the Son of the Living God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
This side of heaven, Jesus will always be somewhat of a mystery to us. We know he’s our Lord, our Savior, our Friend; he is Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace; he is divine Wisdom, the Word-made-flesh. And for Mary, he was her first-born son, the child that others spoke highly of; he was the twelve-year old who was in “his Father’s house.” He was something of a mystery to her, and is a mystery to us.
But Mary came to know who Jesus was only after she’d let him draw her to himself. There, in heaven, after a life of faith, she knew. And if we want to really know who Jesus is, we have to let him draw us to himself. God is always dropping clues to help us understand him. God is always coming to us in the words and the lives of other people. God is always speaking to us in our desires for happiness and health, love and peace.
All we need to do is let him reveal himself to us—a little bit at a time. And then, like Mary, “reflect on those things in our heart.” Ponder them, wonder about them, and accept those little revelations of God . . . in real faith. Then, someday, we’ll come to see Christ as he really is; there in heaven, as the brothers and sisters of God that we are, alongside Mary, the Mother . . . of God.