Thursday, December 31, 2009

Daily - 12/31/09

Luke 2:15-21

15 When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

16 So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.

17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.

18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

19 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

21 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.


This reflection is a bit long, and isn't mine, but I think it's quite good. Funny coincidence, we discussed the last paragraph in bible study this morning, before I found this article.


Mary was Jewish. She was brought up in this spirituality of listening and keeping in mind. What did Mary retain in her heart? Luke tells us that she kept in her heart "all the words" of the shepherds who referred what the angel had told them about the child (2, 18-19). Later, after recounting Jesus' response to Mary and Joseph when they found him in the temple and how he then followed them obediently to Nazareth, Luke says that Mary "retained all these things".

So Luke pictures Mary keeping in mind words and deeds relating to the mission of Jesus and pointing to his future. It is clearly not just remembrance, the keeping in mind of recollections from Jesus' infancy to treasure them nostalgically. It is keeping in mind mysterious words, strange deeds and trying to figure out their significance. This is precisely the meaning of the Greek verb that we translate as "ponder". It is synballein in Greek, a compound word made up of syn, meaning "with", and ballein, meaning "to throw". synballein then, from which our word "symbol" derives, means to throw together, to put together, to combine various things.

In our case, Mary is putting together what she hears Jesus saying and what others say about him with the message of Gabriel when he announced his conception to her and with the words of Scripture. Thus she followed him day by day, even as she took care of him and educated him with a mother's love, trying to discover who her son really was. Because as Luke points out, when he narrates how she found Jesus in the temple and what he told her, Mary did not understand his words (2, 50). We may assume that there were other events and words that she did not understand as well. At the presentation at the temple, Luke says that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon said about Jesus (2,33).

Mary's life was a pilgrimage of faith, just like ours. She did not see things clearly from the beginning, but she had to learn how to read the signs that God was giving her. Her eyes and ears wide open, Mary was careful not to lose anything, but she retained everything in her heart. In the silence of her inner life she kept pondering everything, putting things together, to discover ever more fully who Jesus was. This was particularly important for her. The more she understood Jesus, the more she understood herself and her mission, since as from the moment she had said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (1, 38), her life became interwoven with his.