Numbers 6:22-27/ Galatians 4:4-7/ Luke 2:16-21
-Every job has a title (job title), and with that title comes the dignity of the job and the work that is done. Some jobs are rather dignified and have a high status in society, eg, doctors, engineers, professors, lawyers.
-By their job titles, we would know what their work entails. But there are also other jobs that may not have a high status. For example, the garbage collector (or waste management and disposal technician) is certainly not a high status nor is it glamorous. Or a grave digger (or burial grounds construction) is another example.
-In some societies, garbage collectors and grave diggers are highly marginalized and it’s the work of the lowest classes. Nonetheless, they are also considered as necessary services- somebody must get rid of the rubbish and death is inevitable.
-It is in that light that we can understand the status of shepherds in the biblical times. Although they provided the essential service of rearing sheep, they were considered as nomads who are without status, and unclean to participate in the temple worship and their testimony was not accepted in court.
-Yet, as we heard in the gospel, it was to the shepherds that the good news of the birth of the Savior was first announced. And they hurried to Bethlehem to see for themselves what they had been told and when they saw, they in turn repeated what they had been told.
-Everyone who heard it was astonished. And the Blessed Virgin Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And we can also presume that as Christ Jesus grew up, the Blessed Virgin Mary would relate this experience to Him often. And then we will understand why Christ would often use the imagery of the shepherd and the sheep in His teachings and parables.
-The Blessed Virgin Mary understood the shepherds’ experience with the angels. She had her own encounter with an angel and that was how it all started. And as the Blessed Virgin treasured and pondered all those things in her heart, one truth emerges clearly.
-God loves and favors the poor, the lowly and the humble.
It was in the womb of a lowly and humble virgin that God took flesh and came into the world. It was to the poor and marginalized shepherds that the Good News of the birth of the Savior was first announced.
-Today, we celebrate this great feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. It is a profound and majestic title. Of course to say that Mary is Mother of God means that she is the mother of Jesus Christ who is both God and man.
-But even though Mary is the Mother of God and she also has other titles like, Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church, in her heart she is the humble and lowly virgin who is the handmaid of the Lord.
-And with her motherly heart, she embraces with her maternal love, all those who are poor, lowly, needy, ordinary, humble and marginalized.
She wants to embrace us who are ordinary and lowly and humble. She wants to carry us in her arms just as she cuddled the infant Jesus, if only we let her.
-We may remember that Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, the peasant girl at Lourdes in 1858. She said, “I kept looking at her as hard as I could, and she kept looking steadily at me.”
-The thousands who flocked to the grotto at Lourdes saw nothing but Bernadette. They were so eager to see Mother Mary that they asked Bernadette: Tell us, does our Lady look at anybody but yourself?
-St. Bernadette replied, “Yes, indeed, she does; she looks all around at the crowd, and she stops at some as if they were her old friends.” Yes, Mother Mary looks at each of us, young and old, rich and poor, the distinguished and the ordinary, the educated and the ignorant. She looks at us because regardless of what and who we are, we are all her children.
-So as we begin the New Year, let us call out to Mary our Mother to show us how to follow Christ Jesus her Son. And with the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, let us turn to God for His blessings, not just for ourselves, but also for the lowly and humble, the poor and the marginalized. They are like the shepherds to whom the Good News is first announced.
-May the Lord bless us and keep us, may the Lord shine His face upon us and be gracious to us, and may the Lord uncover His face to us grant us His peace