‘Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart’
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
This reading asks us to focus on the role and on the behaviour of Mary, the mother of the Messiah, whose fiat is a turning point in history. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
16 The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, 18 and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. 19 As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.
21 When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.
Other readings: Numbers 6:22-27 Psalm 66 (67) Galatians 4:4-7
Most of this gospel reading for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, the octave day of Christmas and the first day of the calendar year, has already been heard as the gospel for the Dawn Mass of Christmas Day. The final verse is added today. It is particularly appropriate, since this is the eighth day, the octave day, of Christmas.
But there is a more important reason why reading these verses today, one week after Christmas Day, is different. We are asked to focus on the role and on the behaviour of Mary, the mother of the Messiah. This feast on the octave day of Christmas was instituted in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. It replaces the feast of the Circumcision of our Lord. It is most appropriate that we should focus on Mary on this day.
The coming into a human life of the Son of God could only happen with the collaboration of this humble woman of Nazareth. God respects our human freedom. Mary was invited to work for God in this unique way. Her response to the invitation was a courageous and generous ‘yes’. Her fiat is a turning point in history for it enables the Son of God to become a human being. Her fiat is an example to all those who, like Mary, endeavour to do the will of God by following Jesus.
On this solemn feast we continue to commemorate the birth of Jesus. We acknowledge the consequences of this birth for us, as St Paul writes in the reading from the Letter to the Galatians: ‘at the appointed time God sent his Son, born of a woman’ in order to redeem us and offer us adoption as children of God. Our first reading, from the Book of Numbers, invokes God’s blessing on God’s people as the new year begins.
Do I appreciate the courage and love of Mary and see her as an example?
Do I imitate Mary’s silence and her pondering of God’s goodness in her heart?
We pray that we may follow the example of Mary, the first servant of Jesus Christ, who listened for God’s word and responded with generosity.
We open our hearts to God at the beginning of a new year, that God may bless us and keep us day by day.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy