Faith and Family

Reflection: ‘Let us ponder the Word of God in our hearts’

The Nativity scene (such as this setting in Tarlac City's Belenismo Festival) remains a familiar figure during the Yuletide season. It is also a call for us to reflect on the significant role of May who listened to the word of God, pondered it in her heart, and lived according to the scriptures. Photo by Teddy Pelaez for

The shepherds came hurriedly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby lying in the manger. On seeing him they related what they had been told about the child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds. As for Mary, she treasured all these messages and continually pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the angels had told them. On the eight day the circumcision of the baby had to be performed; he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
—Luke 2:16-21

Societies and cultures use titles, we have titles for people who impart a significant or may be essential contribution and recognition of who they are. Important persons who played significantly in the family, community, or nation are given titles due them.

In the Catholic Church Ordo (also called The Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours
and Celebration of the Eucharist), January 1 is celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) being the Mother of Jesus, who is the Son of God the Father, the savior of the world.

In the Gregorian calendar that the world is following, it is first day of the New Year. It is on this day that the Church gives Mary a high recognition of her role in the salvation story of humankind.

“The title ‘Mother of God’ is the fundamental title of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the one that gives rise to all her other titles. Mary’s Divine Motherhood is based on the Scriptures. These bear witness that Mary is the Mother of the Son of God because the fruit of her womb is the Divine Person Jesus.

In order to come into this world, the Son of God chose the medium of a woman. Although this passage does not explicitly name the Blessed Virgin, it is clear that she is the one in question. The Son of God will be the “Son of Mary” (Mark 6:3, see Matthew 13:55, John 6:42).

In 431, the Council of Ephesus defended the teaching of one Person with two natures in Christ and approved the title of Mother of God in reference to Mary. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon officially promulgated the normative decision set forth at Ephesus. (Anthony Buono, The Greatest Marian Titles: their History, Meaning, and Usage. St. Paul’s, 2008. pp. 125- 129).

In our gospel, the shepherds found Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus who was lying in the manger. The baby was named Jesus as what the angel Gabriel told Mary. The shepherds told what the angels had told them and they were all astonished about the baby who is the savior of the shepherds. The shepherds returned to where they came from, giving glory to God for what they have seen and heard and what the angels have told them. Mary treasured what she saw and heard and pondered them in her heart as well.

For the New Year, it is good for us to reflect on Christmas as the best gift we have received from God, on His love for us as incarnated in His son Jesus Christ, and on the significant role of Mary in this beautiful salvation story.

The life of Mary is an epitome of a disciple who listened to the word of God. Mary did not just listen to the message of God but also lived all her life following the will of God. “Mary, a young Galilean woman of Nazareth was betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph. One day, according to the Gospel of Luke, she was visited by the angel Gabriel who greeted her with the words, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.”

After calming her fears, the angel Gabriel announced that she would conceive and bear a son named Jesus who would be called “the Son of the Most High.” (Robert Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for our time. Claretians, 2001. p. 9).

Likewise, we also have other models like the shepherds. We can be the shepherds who praised the Lord for His goodness and that He made all this possible for us through the birth of his Son, by his becoming man like us.

Let us reflect on the life of Mary and pattern our very lives on her. Mary was an obedient servant to her Master (God), a perfect model for us Christians. We are invited to be like Mary who kept the messages and pondered His words in her heart. Let us also keep in our hearts the word of God that we read from the Scriptures and from the faith and life experiences we go through.

But how do we hear the message of God? We hear when it is proclaimed and lived by. A lot of people have the misconception that the when the word of God (as printed in the Scriptures) is read, then interpreted according to one’s understanding, that is enough. People call it bible study but that is not the way to study the bible.

Actually, some people just tend to extract biblical passages and memorize them, connect with other passages and verses, relate them in their lives, then conclude that these are revelations from God. That is not bible study. It is plain selective memorization of bible verses that are forcefully and insistently being connected together.

It is a pity that a lot of people think that this is the correct practice for after all they feel good afterwards. When one is seriously considering studying the bible, then it has to be in a formal objective and scholarly way. Don’t just memorize, but really investigate, analyze and process. We ask for God’s wisdom, knowledge, and understanding just like Mary who kept the message and pondered it in her heart.

Prayer: Lord God, may we listen to your message like Mary so that we can respond appropriately and responsibly as Christians. May we praise you in glory like the shepherds who thank the Lord for His saving act of love in this new year of hope and new opportunities. This we ask through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

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