“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice” Psalm 96 proclaims today. And so they should. Jesus has come into the world. The long-awaited Messiah has been born into our midst. Today Luke tells the story of the Presentation in the Temple. As devout Jews, Joseph and Mary took their baby to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord as the law prescribed.
There they met Simeon, a just and pious man, who awaited the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he should not see death before seeing the Christ. As he held the baby, he declared that he could die, having seen God’s “saving deed… a revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2: 32). Then he told Mary that her baby was destined to greatness and that her heart would be pierced by a sword. She must have been bewildered, even terrified, at this prophecy.
She was a very young mother. How could she possibly comprehend all of this? When we took our children to be baptized, there was no one to tell us what would befall each child. Had we known even a tiny bit of the future, we may well have run from the church to hide so nothing could harm our children. But life isn’t like that. We had to muddle through the joys and disasters of parenthood, never knowing what to expect next, always shocked at just how many emergencies one family could survive!
Mary’s faith was extraordinary! Her “Yes!” to the angel gives us the example of how to live our lives, seeking and accepting God’s will in all circumstances. That divine will wants us to know Jesus, not merely to learn about him intellectually, but to open our hearts to allow him to dwell there in union with him. As John tells us in today’s first reading, as sons and daughters of God, we are now brothers and sisters of Christ, obliged to keep his word. “But whoever keeps his word, truly has the love of God been made perfect in him” (1 John 2: 5).
Mary’s first yes to God allowed her to physically give birth to Jesus; every yes throughout her life allowed him to dwell perpetually in her heart, even when it was torn asunder with grief. When our hearts are broken by life’s circumstances, even by our own children, may we ever look to Mary for help in guiding our steps toward her Son who wants to heal us. Perhaps our first resolution for 2016 should be daily to ask Mary to help us to endure the pain of those heartbreaks as we stand with her at the foot of the Cross.