Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

(Number 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

In southern Italian city of Matera thousands of people lived in caves until the 1950s.  The people farmed and herded sheep for a subsistence living.  At night they returned to their homes dug out of limestone thousands of years ago.  There they ate and slept along with their most valuable farm animals.  It is quite possible that Jesus was born in a grotto such as one of these caves.

Today’s gospel shows the shepherds coming to worship the newborn Savior.  They recognize him in part by the manger that would have been part of an inhabited cave.  The second century Christian philosopher Justin Martyr, a native of Palestine and familiar with Bethlehem, claims that Jesus was born in a grotto or cave.  Some of the Fathers of the Church thought this testimony credible.  They wrote that in becoming human Jesus descended to the depths of the earth so that he might redeem all people.

The passage also features Mary.  It says that she is reflecting in her heart on all that is taking place.  She realizes that Jesus’ birth in the humblest conditions has significance.  It rebukes the rich and powerful who seek to control others.  She knows that shepherds represent the poor.  They depend upon Christ as their hope in an often callous world.  And she knows that the angels spoke the truth.  They announced the birth of Jesus who saves us from our sins