Num 6: 22 – 27, Gal: 4: 4 -7, Luke 2: 16 – 21.
At the message of the angel, the Virgin Mary received the Word of God in her heart and in her body, and gave life to the world. Mary is our model of receptivity, openness and birthing. The universal Church honours her today as Mother of God.
And for all of us, it’s a brand new year and the opportunity to mark a new beginning, in our relationships with God and ourselves, families and communities of people worldwide, and the earth.
We are still in festive mode, and do all sorts of things, like making new resolutions and promises with which to live into the future.
And in this season of promise and hope, comes a reminder: a baby lying in a manger – a baby whose birth and life so amazed the group of shepherds, and people down through the ages, that we are lost in wonder at the simplicity and beauty of what has occurred. As for Mary, she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart. “All these things” certainly changed Mary.
Consider what she had to ponder: an angel telling her she would bear God’s own son, a census telling her to travel to Bethlehem on a donkey’s back; a manger filled with straw intended for animals; a group of shepherds who were amazed; a visitation by strangers from the East and what that might mean. Indeed, Mary had much to ponder! Time and again, she consented to,
and responded to, the promptings of the Spirit at each twist of the road.
We too are people of consent in our own lives. At each stage of our individual unfolding we are asked to consent. The late Father Thomas Keating speaks of four basic consents that need to be made along the journey of life:
- We consent to being born. 2. Consent to our gifts, abilities, and purposes in life. 3. Consent to our non- being. 4. Consent to our final transformation.
So we consent to the gift of life and the circumstances of our lives. We consent to developing our innate gifts, in the service of finding our unique vocation and to making our contribution in life. We consent to our ‘false selves’ being changed by God’s grace into our ‘true selves.’ Finally, we consent to our physical death and to being transformed into Christ.
Our lives unfold naturally. Giving our consent and cooperation makes the transitions easier. Mary had a way of consenting gracefully; she trusted in the God in whom she fully believed. She trusted that the angel’s message was true: Rejoice, O highly favoured one, the Lord is with you.
Abiding in such trust and giving such a full consent, Mary became the ultimate disciple, the one who epitomised what it meant to follow Jesus. She let go of ego, quietened her fears, and constantly made the decision to trust, even though many times she was in the dark. And through her consent of, “Yes” she made an unparalleled difference in human history.
So in returning to the fact that this is also the time for new resolutions, we
join Mary in resolving to open our hearts to the amazing fullness of grace and to consenting graciously to our own humanity.
The first reading gives us the perfect blessing for moving into 2019. This is my prayer for you, dear reader:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.
( Num 6: 27)
Fionnuala Quinn O.P.