Titus 3:4, 7 / Luke 2:15, 20
As a matter of course, we like to see things for ourselves. The more remarkable the claim or the sight, we would, all things being equal, prefer to behold with our own eyes than rely on the reports of others. To discover that there is something important about what we are doing or seeking that we can only know by the testimony of others does not always sit so well with us. If it were so important, would it not be available to any and all?
In our Gospel today, God confronts our need to see for ourselves. To be sure, the shepherds follow our preferred patters: they hear the word of the angel, and having heard they set out to see this word that is come to pass ... And seeing they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this Child. However, not all who saw the newborn child, not even his Virgin Mother, was privileged to hear the remarkable glad tidings of the angel of the Lord, nor the heavenly choir hymning glory to God and peace on earth. This was reserved to the shepherds alone.
Seeing the babe, otherwise so ordinary, those who heard the tale of the shepherds had two choices. They could remain stupefied — And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. Or, they might take in the glad tidings, receive the Good News not as words from strangers, but as addressed through them by God directly to us. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
Brothers and sisters, the Church across the world, in her preachers and worship, in her service to neighbor and in her silent contemplation, continues like the returning shepherds to glorify and praise God for all the things she has heard and seen from the cave of Bethlehem to the present day. Much of what she has to tell us may seem remarkable, even to those deep and firm in faith. Will we, this Christmas, remain in wonder and confusion about whatever in the Gospel is to us almost too wonderful to believe? Or, will we follow the lead of the Virgin, keeping all the words the Church proposes to us, the most difficult along with the most joyful, and ponder them in our hearts?