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John Barnes

The Octave Day of Christmas Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

"Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk. 2:16-21)

Chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel invites us to imagine the world in which Jesus, the Savior of the World, is about to be born. Rome was experiencing growth as a military and economic superpower under the rule of Caesar Augustus. As a result, he decreed that all subjects needed to be enrolled so that an accurate census could be obtained for collecting taxes.

Amid this decree, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill the demands of the empire. Mary is close to term, and she and Joseph find themselves far from the comforts of home and away from the embrace of friends and family. In the midst of all of this, mindful of the angel’s announcement from months ago, Mary gives birth to the Christ Child in the most unlikely place, a manger.

After giving birth to the Child and being greeted by the shepherds, the text says (2:19) that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. A closer look at the original Greek text suggests that a more literal rendering of the text could be that Mary “treasured” and “reflected” on these things in her heart.

But what are these things that Mary treasured and reflected on?

I imagine that she treasured the fact that God fulfilled the prophecy given to her by the angel in a circumstance that she never expected.

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son…(Luke 1:31)

I imagine that she treasured knowing that the One to whom she gave birth would change the world with just the mention of His name.

…he was called Jesus (Luke 2:21)

I imagine that she reflected on the wonderous Love of the Savior, who chose to use her as the vessel to bring salvation to the world.

Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Lk. 1:30)

In the busyness of our personal lives and with the turmoil of the world in which we live, I wonder, do we truly treasure the gift of Emmanuel, God with us?

Are we still amazed by God’s extravagant invitation of love sent to us in the person of Jesus Christ?

How often do we take the time to ponder, to truly reflect on the gratuitous mystery of a God who would become one of us so that we might be reconciled?

Or have we become complacent and allowed our hearts to become so hardened by the strife of this world that we have become numb to the inbreaking of God in our midst?

Mary, refused to be consumed with the anxiety and uncertainty around her and instead chose to hold fast to the promise of God. Although she didn’t know what lay ahead, she believed God’s Word and treasured His Word over every other word and distraction. She believed the Word of God at the angel’s announcement of her conception, she believed as she held the Babe in a manger, and she believed, still, as she would later gaze at the One who she once wrapped in swaddling clothes hang outstretched on a rugged cross.

Brothers and sisters, on this day of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us pray through her intercession that we too might hold fast to God’s Word, treasure and reflect on the gift of Emmanuel, God with us not only during the Christmas season, but throughout every season of the year.

Pray that like the shepherds who made haste to spread the news of the Savior’s birth; we might be so profoundly changed by the miracle of the Incarnation that we also are compelled to go with haste and tell the world the good news: Fear Not, for to you born this day, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Lk. 2:10-11)

Author: Originally from Los Angeles, CA, John Barnes is a doctoral candidate in the Theology department at Fordham University, focusing on systematic theology. He holds both the M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. At Fordham, John also teaches undergraduate courses in theology. John's primary area of research lies at the intersection of pneumatology, Christology, and the Black religious experience in America. In addition to his scholarly pursuits, John also serves as the convener for the Catholic Anti-Racism Project (CARP) for the Archdiocese of New York.

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