Sunday, January 01, 2012


Solemnity of Mary, The Mother Of God
Do You See What I See?

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 66:2-3,5,6,8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

Said the night wind to the little lamb:
Do you see what I see...
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy:
Do you hear what I hear...
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king:
Do you know what I know...

Sisters and brothers, do you recognise these words? Do they ring a bell for you? Some of you may recognise them as words taken from a popular Christmas carol. Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Do you know what I know? I believe these are also the questions that our Mass readings are addressing to us as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God today.

Today, we find a very clear structure to our readings. There is a both a beginning and an ending. We begin, in the first reading, with God teaching Moses how to bless the people. And, at the end of the gospel reading, we’re told that, when it came time to have their baby circumcised, Mary and Joseph named him Jesus. The same name that the angel had given him before his conception. A name that literally means God saves. So that, at the beginning of the readings, we have a blessing. And at the end, a naming. What all this tells us is, of course, that the blessing that Moses is instructed to pray for in the wilderness of Sinai, is finally given by God, in its fullness, in Bethlehem. In the helpless little baby lying in a manger, God saves.

But that’s not all. Not only do our readings have a definite beginning and a definite ending, they also have a clearly discernible middle. And this middle is very important. The blessing at the beginning can lead to the naming at the end, only because a middle connects them both. And this middle consists in a seeing, and a hearing, and a knowing. The same words that we took from our Christmas carol.

Except that this is no ordinary seeing or hearing or knowing. The prayer for blessing can only lead to the ceremony of naming when people see, hear and know in a very particular way. To appreciate this, we might imagine what an ordinary bystander might have seen and heard as s/he passed the manger in Bethlehem on that first Christmas night. Here was a homeless couple. Probably bearing the dark stains and the disturbing smells of long travel. A couple who did not have the means to secure decent lodgings for themselves. A couple who were driven by necessity, not only to have to sleep next to farm animals, but even to have to lay their newborn baby in the very place out of which these same animals ate their food. What kind of parents could bear to allow their own precious child to sleep in a manger? At best, our bystander might have seen in them a poor family deserving of pity. At worst, a pair of lazy good-for-nothings, unwilling to work to provide the basic necessities for their child. And yet, the gospel tells us that the shepherds, who came to the stable to visit the Holy Family, saw and heard something very different. For we are told that, after their visit, they went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. What exactly did they hear and see?

And what if we were to place ourselves in the shoes of Mary and Joseph? Even though Mary must have already been near the time for childbirth, the couple had been forced to embark on this arduous journey to Bethlehem, for no other reason than to obey the Roman Emperor’s decree. Then, after finally having arrived at this unfamiliar town, no one would offer them a proper place to sleep. So that they had to experience first hand what their son would later say about himself: foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58). Under such difficult circumstances, anyone in the shoes of Mary and Joseph might be forgiven for shaking his or her head in depression and despair. And yet, in the darkness of their situation, this holy couple was able to see something different. Something wonderful. What did they see? What did they hear? What did they know?

Our readings offer us a moving image of what this something might have been. In the first reading, the blessing of God is described in terms of God’s face. May the Lord let his face shine on you.... May the Lord uncover his face to you... Then, in the second reading, St. Paul speaks not only of how God sent his Son born of a woman, but also of how God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. The same Spirit that enables us to call God Abba, Father. In later years, St. Irenaeus of Lyons will speak of the Son and the Spirit as the two hands that the Father stretches out to save us. So that what we find in our readings today is a beautiful portrait of the God who saves. The God who uncovers his face to us in a radiant smile. The God who reaches out his hands to us, in the Son and in the Spirit, drawing us into the warmth of God’s embrace.

This is what Mary and Joseph and the shepherds experienced. In the darkness of that first Christmas night, they saw the bright light of God’s face, smiling down upon them. In the cries of that helpless little child, they heard the reassuring voice of the almighty and ever-loving Father, reaching out a hand to save his people. In the difficult challenges of their lives, and the deep recesses of their hearts, they knew the consolation of the Spirit, moving them to cry out, not just Abba, Father, but also Jesus, God saves.

What is more, this incredible grace, given to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, is meant not just for them. This grace, to see and to hear and to know the saving power of God, is meant for us as well. This is the very thing that we have been praying for as we continued, in these Christmas days, to gaze upon the baby in the manger. But it is not just in the manger at the Place of Gathering that God’s saving power can be found. What we discover in the messy stable at Bethlehem, we need also to uncover in the chaotic circumstances of our daily lives, and of our troubled world. For the baby born in Bethlehem, on that first Christmas day, continues to be born for us, wherever we may find ourselves today. In every place of darkness, God continues to uncover to us the radiance of his smile. In every situation of helplessness, God continues to stretch out his hands to save us.

Sisters and brothers, it was on the eighth day after his birth, that Mary and Joseph were able to name their son Jesus. God saves. Today, we have, once again, reached the eighth day in the Octave of Christmas. And, even as we gaze out onto our troubled world, the words of our Christmas carol continue to resound in our minds and hearts:

Said the night wind to the little lamb:
Do you see what I see...
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy:
Do you hear what I hear...
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king:
Do you know what I know...
The Child sleeping in the night... will bring us goodness and light

Sisters and brothers, what do you see? What do you hear? What do you know, today?

2 comments:

  1. If we can cast our memory back to our childhood; into a time of innocence - seeing things unclouded, learning without the clutter and knowing in hesitant moves, we can draw strength from the annual celebration of this wondrous Child, born to give us second birth.
    Every year Christmas is a time for us to remember to unlearn what is evolved into our psyche and to look at life afresh with the eyes of true vision. To recognize that God is present in every event, especially in the lowly and that He is full of surprises. To anticipate what is real and authentic.
    Perry Como also sang Sunrise Sunset (Fiddler on the Roof) that reminds us that time is relentless and we are transformed for better or worse through the path we choose. But above all, if we aim to reach out to everyone with a loving attitude, we shall not stray too much; with undeserved grace.

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  2. Since the 1st half of the century, John the Baptist had seen and call Jesus the Lamb of God. Meaning Jesus' mission as the One who has come to redeem us from our sins. The blood of Jesus, delivers us from everlasting death and destruction. It is significant that John who was the son of a priest, Zachariah, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people. In Jesus he saw the true and only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin. It is through the Holy Spirit which had revealed to John Jesus' true nature, such that John bore witness that this is the Son of God. Same thing in the present world, through the Holy Spirit, we know Jesus is the Son of God through the gift of faith. “Do you see what I see?” – If we see with an open mind and heart, we will see God has given us freely of his Spirit so that we may comprehend the great mystery and plan of God to unite all things in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw and read on the Holy Bible that it was through Jesus’ death that all human sins were forgiven, and human and God are reconciled, thus eternal peace is attained.


    It is through the daily renewal of our faith with Jesus and Our God as a community, that we can hear these questions ringing in our ears, “What’s the goal of your life? What are you aiming for and trying to get out of life?” This is like Jesus asking one of the two disciples of John. Through these questions, we can experience the Holy Spirit working in our mind, and by putting ourselves into the scriptures while praying, we are able to discern the real meaning of life.


    Hence, we know that it is very important and valuable that we will want to share our faith with those closest to us. In the ancient days, when we call someone a “rock”, it was the greatest compliment. It is through our belief in faith that we gain confidence to influence our close family and friends to the Church. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith to know Jesus personally, power to live the gospel faithfully, and courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the gospel. Thus with this deepened faith, we know The Lord Jesus is ever ready to draw us nearer to himself.

    Like Michael Card's song:

    Jesus draw us every nearer.
    Hold us in your loving arms.
    Wrap us in your gentle presence.
    And when the rain comes bring us home.

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