In today’s gospel the shepherds again appear beside the manger of Jesus. On receiving the news from heaven, they go to Bethlehem and find Joseph, Mary and the baby in a manger. They do not find anything extraordinary. They see only a baby with his father and his mother.
Nevertheless, in that weak being, needing help and protection, they recognise the saviour. The shepherds represent all the poor, the excluded that, almost by instinct, acknowledge in the baby of Bethlehem the Messiah from heaven.
In the first chapters of his gospel, Luke often reveals the marvel and the immense joy of the persons who felt involved in the plan of God.
Elizabeth, having discovered herself to be pregnant, repeats to all: “This for me is the Lord’s doing” (Luke 1:25). Simeon and prophet Anna bless God who has granted them the privilege of seeing the salvation prepared for all the people (Luke 2:30-38); Mary and Joseph are also amazed and astonished (Luke 2:33,38).
All of them have the eyes and heart of a baby that accompanies each gesture of the father. He smiles, because in all that the father does he captures a sign of his love.
“For the kingdom of God belong to such as these—Jesus says one day—and whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15).
In the second part of the gospel (v.19), the reaction of Mary to the story of the shepherds is emphasized: “She treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
Luke says that Mary “gathered together all the facts,” bound them and she captured the meaning; she discovered the connecting link; she contemplated the realisation of God’s plan.
She meditated, observed with an attentive eye each event in order not to be conditioned by ideas, convictions and traditions of her people and be receptive to and prepared for God’s surprises.
A certain Marian devotion has distanced her from our world and from our human condition, anguish, doubts and uncertainties.
Luke presents her in a right perspective, as a sister who fulfilled a journey of faith, similar to ours.
Mary does not understand everything from the beginning: she marvels at what Simeon says of the child. She is almost taken by surprise (Luke 2:33).
She was amazed as were the apostles and all the people before God’s works (Luke 9:43-45). She does not understand the words of her son who chose to commit himself to the Father’s affairs (Luke 2:50).
Mary does not understand, but observes, meditates, reflects and after Easter (not before), she will understand everything; she will clearly see the meaning of that which happened.
Luke will present her, for the last time, at the beginning of the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
He will put her in her place, in the community of believers: “All of these together gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). She was blessed because she believed (Luke 1:45).
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ