Luke 2: 16-21
The chief service to the world of a contemplative is “this silence, this listening, this questioning, this humble and courageous exposure to what the world ignores about itself–both good and evil.” Thomas Merton
In the movie, Mary of Nazareth, the makers of the movie tried to portray the image of the gospel that we hear on this New Year’s Day. As the shepherds approach the newborn babe, Mary scurries off with the child, frightened, knowing the circumstances and life of the shepherds out of fear for the child’s life until Joseph can assess the situation. However, they come with great news as to the identity of this child that Mary hides and as the story unfolds, the child is handed to all the shepherds, each kissing and holding the child, thanking God for the gift that has been revealed in time. In the messiness of their own lives, God becomes flesh. Their automatic response is one of gratitude.
As we close out one year and move into 2014, we hear in this gospel how Mary spends much of this experience just “taking it all in”, pondering all that is unfolding in her heart. What is true for Mary is also true for us on this feast of Mary, Mother of God, that God is also trying to bring to birth something new within our lives, waiting in labor pains so often for newness to unfold. We’re often not left pondering and reflecting upon the experience, but rather agonizing over change and holding onto the anxiety of the experience, failing to see God pushing us to new life. This time of year is an opportunity for us to experience the gift of contemplation, pondering the works of God in our own lives and the great themes that have unfolded over the past year….life, death, fear, faith, love. All too often we’re ready to throw out the previous year, living with some sense that we can simply forget all that has happened, the good and our participation in evil, leaving us to become complacent in our lives, often to run in fear, to hide Christ within us.
Yet, if like Mary, we spend time contemplating this mystery and reflecting upon the workings of God in our lives this past year, we can begin to recognize and accept these themes that unfold and follow the model placed and the example of Mary and Joseph in choosing life over death, in choosing faith over fear, in choosing love and the life that follows. Ultimately, it leads us to the shepherds within us, giving thanks to God for the gift of life unfolding and birthing within. As we draw one year to an end and begin anew, we are called to find that silence within and to reflect and contemplate this mystery that lies within us, the good and the evil, and to discern the call to life that God calls each of us to, giving thanks for the gift given and shared.