A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Keeping Secrets

“Can you keep a secret?”  How often have we been asked this question?   Most likely, the “secret,” good or bad, may ultimately be a point of reflection which allows for a period of historical evaluation.  One thinks of significant issues that have happened and later thinks about them as having importance not only for us, but for others as well.  I suspect that Mary was just this type of person.

Why do I say this?  Well, for the feast of the Solemnity of Mary the Gospel tells us about the visit of the shepherds to the recently born Jesus  (Lk. 2:16-21).  They shared what they had been told by the angel.  The message was that a savior (which means “Jesus”) has been born in Bethlehem, and that peace would come.

The Gospel then tells us,  “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”  (Lk. 2:19)  A synonym for “ponder” is “reflect on.”  What things did Mary reflect on?  Those important things that a mother would have to reflect on throughout her life.  Her “secrets” were things to “ponder.”  Interestingly, Luke gives us further illustrations of this phenomenon.

The first example is the Annunciation (Lk. 1:26-38).  Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she, a virgin, is to be the mother of Jesus which surprised her very much.  What would the towns people say when they saw an unmarried teenager pregnant?  Her response to this and other potential problems was “…Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38)  No doubt her “pondering” led her to allow God to be in charge.

Luke’s second example of Mary’s “pondering” comes at the time she and Joseph take the child Jesus to the Temple to be presented. (Lk. 2:22-38)  Jewish custom was that the firstborn male be presented in the Temple as an offering to God.

The righteous and devout  Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms, and said that this child would be the rise and fall of many.  Then he most likely looked at Mary and told her “…and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Lk. 2:35)   No doubt Mary had much upon which to reflect especially during the final days of Holy Week.

The next example of Luke regarding Mary’s reflective process is the loss of the twelve year old Jesus.  (Lk. 2:41-52)  It was the custom to go to Jerusalem every year for the feast of the Passover.  On their way home, Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph and he thought the child was with Mary.  Soon they discovered that Jesus was nowhere to be found.

So they returned to Jerusalem to find the lost child.  Finally, they encountered him in the Temple conversing with teachers.  As a good Jewish mother, Mary demanded a reason and chided Jesus “Child, why have you treated us like this?”  Jesus’ response was pretty cryptic.  At any rate,  he returned to Nazareth with his parents and was obedient to them.  Then Luke ends the experience with the words, “…His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary accompanied Jesus throughout much of his life, from birth to death.  No doubt she had plenty of time to “ponder” what she had experienced during the times of the visit of the shepherds, the Annunciation, the Presentation of the child in the Temple as well as his loss at twelve years old.  Her pondering resulted in things such as doing God’s will, and realizing that bad things in life can happen as well as good things.

This “secret” (of pondering ) will remain within us and we should share it.  Why?  Because this reflection will help us to enable others, by our example, to expect experiences both good and bad and anticipate the doing of God’s will, no matter what happens.

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