Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 1, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

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.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We begin the new calendar year, and as we begin it, we reflect on a title the Church has given to Mary, the mother of Jesus. That title, Mary, the Mother of God is as much, even more, about who Jesus is than it is about who Mary is. In the history of the Church, people have proposed different theories about Jesus’ nature. Some have argued Jesus was a really good guy, like the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, or the prophet Mohammed: a really good guy but certainly not divine. Other people (notably a very ancient branch of Christianity, the dominant group of Christians in Egypt, known as the Copts) have swung entirely the other way. They say that Jesus just pretended to be a human being, but he really had just one nature: Jesus is God alone and not a human being except in appearance. The great fight in early Christian centuries that attended extending to Mary the title mother of God put into stark relief the question of whether Jesus was nothing more than a really special person or whether Jesus was God playacting for human benefit (or some nuance of these two theories). For many people, notably for Jews and Moslems, the notion that the Creator of all things could have a mother–that God who creates everything was mothered by one of his creatures–is simply a contradiction in terms.

When we say Mary is the mother of God, when we celebrate that fact, we are in fact making a very profound statement about who Jesus is. All human beings have a mother; Jesus is a human being; therefore, Jesus has a mother. But also, Jesus is God; Mary is Jesus’ mother; therefore Mary is the mother of God. In acknowledging this title at the start of the calendar year, the Church is saying exactly what John’s prologue, which the Church gave us to read yesterday, says: Jesus is both human and divine. This is a profound act of faith, and it was somehow, as the scriptures reveal to us, an inchoate sense among even the people who knew him in the first century.

Jesus received his name, according to the Law of Moses, at the time of his circumcision, as described in today’s gospel passage. Even this name tells us something about who Jesus is. Jesus’ name in the language of his people was Yeshua. The rendering, “Jesus,” is the Greek form of his name. Since Greek was the universal language at the time of the Lord’s birth much as French was in the 19th century and English is now, most of those who came to know the name of the Lord came to know it in its Greek form, and the rendering stuck as the universal usage that has come down to us to this day. The English equivalent of Yeshua (or Jesus) is a fairly common name among us, Joshua. The name means, “Yahweh saves.”

The promise of Jesus’ coming, the promise of each new year, and the promise of this new year is that God is faithful, and God will come and save God’s people. Let us then be trusting, as we saw that Mary and even the shepherds trusted what they saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and touched with their own hands: God comes to save God’s people. And that is precisely the mystery we remember as we celebrate Mary as the mother of God.

Spiritual reading: If you want peace, work for justice. (Paul VI)

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