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Reflection on the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Posted on January 1, 2021, by Mary Swain SL

The Gospel we just heard sounds like Christmas all over again. The shepherds have made their way to Bethlehem. Mary, Joseph and the child are there, just as the angel had told them earlier. At the end of today’s Gospel, the child is named Jesus, the Hebrew name that means “God saves.” Imagine walking around with the name God saves. What a responsibility he had — to live up to that name! Jesus’ very person means God saves.

But what does “God saves really mean in our day-to-day life? We know the phrase: God saves us from our sins. But we don’t really live our lives with those thoughts every day. Maybe today’s first reading where God is speaking to Moses is more to the point. God tells Moses to bless the people and to say to them: “May God’s face shine upon you. May God be gracious to you. May God look upon you kindly and give you peace.” It’s as though God can’t do enough. God wants the people to know, “I am all for you. I look on you with great kindness. I want you to be in peace.”

So Jesus’ name means “God saves.” Jesus’ life as he lived it says over and over “God saves.” Jesus’ interactions with people all through his public life say to them, “God is for you. God’s love is intimate, humble, caring.”

So what about us? We cannot simply admire Jesus. We say that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. In God we live and move and have our being. We live in God. Jesus lived in God. Jesus seems to have understood it all better than we do, perhaps. But we, too, enflesh God. God knows that we enflesh God. As Eileen Custy SL said Christmas Eve, “God is in our very DNA. We have God’s DNA in us.” We need to know it, realize it, at a deeper and deeper level.

For in faith we say we are disciples of Jesus, and we want to do as Jesus did. We know what that means. We have lived long enough, most of us, and listened to Gospel stories often enough. There is much kindness in this Community. There is much reaching out to the other. We must continue and not grow weary — and in this year, with COVID-19, it’s even harder.

There is one thing, however, that challenges my faith and my trust. How do we deal with the huge wall of violence that we see confronting people in so many places? How do we live with the awareness of what is happening to people in parts of Africa and the Middle East and parts of Central America? Immigrants living and working here, needed by the U.S. economy, live in fear of being sent away. I don’t know what to do with that suffering beyond writing our few letters and praying. I do believe that I must choose to hope. It is a luxury for me to despair. The people caught in the violence do not have the luxury to despair. The mother continues feeding her children or they starve. So, in this new year let us choose to hope for the sake of so many who suffer. 


Mary Swain SL

Mary Swain SL has been a consultant to the National Religious Retirement Office and has served on the board for the National Association for Treasurers of Religious Institutes. Along with her math background and service to the Loretto Community in the financial area, she has experience as a church organist and plans and prepares materials for Loretto liturgies at Loretto Motherhouse and for special occasions. Mary resides at Loretto Motherhouse, the grounds of which receive her careful tending and loving touch.