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This Sunday's Programme

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Mother of God

Sunday 1st January 2023

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Lk 2:16-21

So the shepherds hurried into town and found both Mary and Joseph and there was the baby lying in the food trough.  When they saw this, they let everyone know what they had been told about this child.  All were astounded at what the shepherds were saying and wondered what it could mean.  As for Mary she took all this in, pondering over it in her heart. The workers went back to their camp; praising and glorifying God for all that they had seen and heard.  It was exactly as they had been told.

Eight days later, the child was to be circumcised.  They gave him the name Jesus – the name that angel had given him before he was conceived.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 95: 1-3; 11-13

Sing to God a new song,
Sing to the God of all the earth.
Sing to God: “ Blest are you!”

Day by day proclaim his salvation,
tell of his glory to all nations.
his marvellous deeds to all peoples.

The heavens rejoice,
the earth exults,
the sea and all in it thunders,
the paddocks and all upon them delight,
all the trees of the bush rejoice.
before the face of the God who comes,
who comes to judge the earth.

God will judge the world with justice,
and its people with truth

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, in Mary, the Mother of God, you have given us the great model of faith. As we follow her example, treasuring and pondering on your Word, may Jesus come to birth in our lives. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

The Gospel chosen for this feast is the same as that for the Christmas Day Eucharist but this time we are invited to look at the reading focussing on Mary. So far in Luke’s Gospel she has heard the message of the angel and responded to the invitation to be Mother of God, even though it placed her in an anomalous position. She has visited and helped her cousin Elizabeth and received confirmation of God’s calling to her. Now, after travelling to Bethlehem, heavily pregnant, she and Joseph find no room for them in the city of David. The only place they could find was some animal’s lodging – probably some crude shed ‘out the back.’ She makes the best of the situation, wrapping the child in the typical clothing used for new-borns.

Well may she be wondering what is going on! In this difficult situation she must have felt that those extraordinary revelations about her child given to her and Elizabeth were delusions. Then, in come some shepherds, some of the marginal and despised of their society confirming all that she had been told. No wonder she treasured and pondered on their words – and God’s strange ways for this child. By now it would be dawning on her that her child’s way of offering salvation was to be different from all the current expectations. Her calling was to treasure and ponder…and then respond when the moment of grace came.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

On this feast day of Mary, the Mother of God, the gospel story chosen has only one sentence about Mary herself. Everything else describes the drama that takes place in the lives of the shepherds and of Jesus. On these things, we are told, Mary pondered, treasuring them in her heart. What did she ponder? The experience of the shepherds, their humble worship and the proclamation about Jesus that they were telling to all. Essentially this is Mary’s response to the sharing of faith that these humble shepherds offered. Faithful as she had been to the Word given to her by the angel, her faith was still strengthened and enriched by what she heard from the shepherds.

Mary is offered to us as a model of faith. We, too, can, even should, have our faith strengthened by what we receive from other people. Faith is not something that happens between God and me but rather it grows and feeds on the faith of others. Whether it be in conversations, homilies, what we read, the example that we see, God chooses to offer grace to us through other people.

Just as we receive from the faith of others, so too we should give. We may feel that our faith does not add up to much. Imagine if the shepherds had felt like that! Humble and insignificant as we may feel, God still chooses to work through us, through each and every one of us. Our belief in the mystical body of Christ tells us that we are organically united to others. As each part of the body lives in union with the rest of the body, so to we thrive by giving and receiving faith. This day let us ask Mary to guide us into the deep ways of faith that sustained her throughout her life and which she willingly offers to each of us.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

By her faith, by her way of believing Mary is the great model for each of us. In this Gospel we see an important aspect of our faith. It is not given to us all at once. Rather as we go over the mysteries of faith, pondering and treasuring them, they grow ever deeper and fresher. At the Annunciation, Mary was told many extraordinary things about her coming Son. Now, through the shepherds, she heard the same things in the different way. Not for her to say: “Well, I already knew that.” No, she listens, she treasures, she ponders – over and over again and each time she enters more deeply into the mystery of her Son.

The same holds for us. We each have moments of grace when we have known the love of God, when the meaning of our faith has come alive. We may feel that they are all too rare but if we treasure them and ponder on them, we will find that they will not only continue to feed us but that newer insights can come out of our pondering over those moments. If we recall them in the spaces of time that come to us, waiting in the car, standing in line at the supermarket, we will find that our love of God becomes something deep, rich and meaningful. We will realise that God gives us those moments so rarely because they are so rich. As we become accustomed to that richness God is then able to teach us and grace us even more in our pondering.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– This Nativity scene by Geertgen tot Sint Jans shows Mary in wonder at her child.

Mary kept all these Things and pondered them in her Heart by Alice Mary Havers shows Mary in a pose familiar to many parents: watching over their sleeping child..

 

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

During this coming week, take those little moments of time that come your way, and be like Mary treasuring and pondering of the ways of God in your life.  If the opportunity arises, share your reflections with someone else.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

Quietly go over the faith events of your life – the moments when you feel God has stepped into your life and guided you.  Treasure one of those events, gently and quietly re-enacting it.  As you go over the event, ponder anew the meaning of the different elements.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to see what happened in a richer and fresher way.  As your faith is deepened, treasure the event once again and open your heart in gratitude to God.

Rest in the love of your God.