A couple arranged to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary at Mass with their children, grandchildren, family, and friends. After the homily, the couple stood facing the congregation. The priest asked the husband the traditional, “Do you take Maria to be your wife, in good times and bad, until death do you part?” There was a dramatic silence. Joseph seemed to be pondering the question. The priest was worried.
Maria was so anxious she nudged her husband to bring him back to the present. Then Joseph said, “Well, if I knew beforehand all that we would go through, I am not so sure as I was when we married. But yes, I do renew my vow to Maria.” There was a rousing applause from the congregation.
The Gospel today presents the narrative of the shepherds who received the dramatic announcement from the angels that “in Bethlehem a savior had been born for you, who is Messiah and Lord.” The shepherds decided to go and see. What they told Mary and Joseph must have spread all around Bethlehem, because all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds reported, including Mary and Joseph. Like the Virgin Mary, we ought to make it a daily habit to ponder the events of our lives, each and every day.
What stands out in today’s Gospel reading is how a rather ordinary event was actually so extraordinary. Mary was able to penetrate the deep meaning of her part in God’s plan because she pondered all these things in her heart. Ordinary: A humble couple must travel and register for the census in Bethlehem. Their first child is born in a stable/cave because there was no room in the town’s guesthouse. Extraordinary: Some shepherds arrive claiming to be sent by angels. They recount what the angels told them. A savior is born in Bethlehem. Go and see for yourselves. All are amazed, including Mary and Joseph, by the shepherds and their story. Then the narrative says that “Mary pondered all these things.” She must have recalled the message she received that she would give birth to a son who would be great, the holy one of Israel. She never forgot her “let it be” and her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant, and her husband, Zachariah, who was deaf due to his initial disbelief.
Today, our lives can bring many pressures and distractions. Sometimes it can seem impossible to find time for any pondering, any consideration of the deeper meaning of the events of our lives. There are the routine tasks: getting to work, doing our jobs, taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning, maintaining the house, yard, car, paying the bills, and so forth. Phone calls, text messages, keeping up with civic and social events and activities are enough to make our heads spin. Everything seems to demand attention, dull our senses, and leave us feeling caught in a whirlwind that robs our ability to recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary. Getting up early enough to take part in Sunday Mass can seem such a burden after all the activities that go with daily life.
What does it take “to ponder all these things,” both the ordinary and the extraordinary? …Taking time to pray every day, for seeking the presence of God demands silencing ourselves, …Making sure we search for the meaning of what is happening in our lives, …Seeking advice from other members of our Christian community, …Remembering that it is impossible to know God’s plan, …Seeing Mary the mother of Jesus as our mother in faith, …Resolving to live the mercy and love shown by Jesus in our lives.
We are about to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. He warned us of the cost of discipleship in today’s Gospel reading. Now we affirm our acceptance of the joys and the sufferings that make up our ordinary lives. In faith we have hope that the extraordinary graces we have received will continue to transform us as we live as disciples of the Lord.