Friday, December 31, 2010

God-bearers (Reflections on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, New Year's Day 2011)

The Hindus of Calcutta have always seemed quite wary of visitors, especially Christians. They don’t seem particularly hospitable to outsiders either. But mention Mother Teresa’s name, or ask them where you could find one of her sisters' houses, and you can see the expression on their faces change. They smile at you and are at once friendly.

That’s because Mother Teresa embodied for them: kindness, generosity, and love for the poor and needy. She was to them, the bearer of the message of Christianity. In her care for them, she made God’s presence felt in their lives. She was to them, a “God-bearer”.

We are celebrating today, the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. It’s a rather curious title. In 431, a group of Christians began denying that Jesus was God, saying he was no more than a man. The leaders of the Christian community responded by affirming that Jesus was both God and man, and to emphasize their point further, began addressing his mother as “Theotokos”, the “God-bearer”.

It was a title given to Mary, but a title that really said more about Christ than about his mother. Mary bore Christ in her womb, Christ who was God.

This is one of those curious things about theological statements or doctrines about Mary. On the surface, they look like doctrines about her. But look more closely and you’ll see that they’re really doctrines that say more about Jesus than about anyone else.

Christ is the real point of every statement about Mary, because every statement about her is really a statement pointing or witnessing to Christ.

It is really fitting then, that we celebrate the feast of Mary, the “Theotokos”, the “God-bearer” on this the first day of the New Year.

On this day, we make resolutions, some a few, others many. Perhaps we might want to consider including in our resolutions, to become, like Mary, like Mother Teresa, and like countless other good Christians out there, “God-bearers”, bringing the message of Christ to those whose lives we shall touch this year.

A preacher once said, “There are five gospels of Jesus Christ—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and you, the Christian. Many people will never read the first four”.

For many people, the life that we as followers of Christ live, will be the greatest and perhaps the sole proclamation of Jesus’ message that they shall ever encounter.

Let us pray therefore that as we begin a New Year, we may be bearers of God, witnesses of Christ’s love and compassion to a world of men and women that two thousand years after Jesus was born, still await the coming of Christ into their lives.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)