RELIGION: Was it ever anything more than a memory of something wonderful?

Canon Gerry Conroy

There’s a certain stillness, a calmness, I suppose a sort of peace, that is contagious when a mother holds her sleeping child in her arms. It seems able to conjure up a sentiment of contentment in us. Listening to the Gospel, there is a sense of bustle and excitement. It is easy to picture the shepherds hurrying to the town to find the baby and his mother and then animatedly recounting their encounter with the angels; and in the midst of all this chaos there is the image of Mary quietly holding her child and watching and listening to it all, pondering it in her heart, surrounding her child, surrounding the story of her child’s life with the love of a mother that is in her heart. And then as the little picture draws to a close; life seems to return to some sort of normality: the shepherds return to their fields, and the curtain comes down on the little tableau by telling us that on the eighth day the child was circumcised and given the name the angel had given him: ordinary life goes on with its routines and traditions. The circle has been completed and we are ready to move onto the next stage of the story; the next stage in the life of this special infant.
But we should not be so quick to lower the curtain on our consideration of this scene. Our Lady did not quickly move on, she pondered them in her heart; she prayed about them in the light of her love for her baby. Mary has always been for the Church an exemplary model for the correct response of the disciple to what God is doing in our lives, and she pondered all these things with the love that was in her heart: her love for her child and her love and devotion for God. The Shepherds went back to their work, praising God for what they had seen, but you wonder if it was ever anything more than a memory of something wonderful they had once witnessed long ago, something that had once happened to them, but which they didn’t really understand and which to be honest hadn’t really touched their lives, only a memory to ponder. Yes, it was good and right that they left praising God for all they had heard and seen, but it is a better thing to treasure these things and ponder them in our hearts as did Our Blessed Mother.
The reason I say that is because I don’t think Our Lady knew the details of God’s plan, she didn’t know what lay ahead of her as mother of the Redeemer. and when you don’t know the details, when you only know the desired result, it means that you have to trust the person who does know the details. That is when life can get hard. So Mary was no different in that regard than the rest of us. And as Jesus grew up, as he left home to begin his public ministry, the questions must have increased. When he was led to his death and died on the cross the darkness must have come down on her, his mother, as it did on Christ. And what do we have to fall back on in life when that darkness comes down on us? And we all know it does come down on us. That is why I say that those moments that she treasured and pondered in her heart were so important. It’s because we ponder in our hearts, it’s because we pray and talk to God and know God, that we have a way to deal with the dark times.
Faith will be tested by life and if we do not have a firm anchor for it, then life will blow it away like tumbleweed. Our Lady shows us how to have an anchor for our life and for our faith. It is to ponder in our hearts, to pray, to talk to God, about the good and the bad things in our life.  To make sure God is there in every part of our life, not as an occasional visitor
but as a life-long friend.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s and St Peter’s in Dumbarton.

Leave a Reply