Let us reflect on the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass. It says: The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
We are told the what the baby was doing, it was lying in the manger. This has a prophetic significance. A manger is a feeding trough. Mary’s infant was already teaching us who he was - food for the world.
But Mary and Joseph, what were they doing? They were busy simply being with Jesus - like the first Apostles called ‘to be with him’.
For nine months Mary had been carrying this extraordinary child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, in her womb. Joseph had almost left her because of this child. It was only the message of an angel that had stopped him: Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.
Now they could see with their very own eyes what was ‘in her’ – an infant, a son, who was to save his people from their sins.
How they must have wondered! How they must have longed to see his face, and now that he was here they could ‘read’ the Word of God in the his tiny face.
The shepherds, too, were eagerly seeking the face of the Christ. They wanted to see the Messiah, the Promised One. They hastened to Bethlehem. I’m glad they hastened. It would have been unseemly for them to dawdle along the way. The only fitting way, really, for us to seek the Lord is to hasten.
So what did they find when they got to Bethlehem? They found Mary and Joseph and the baby. They were seeking Jesus the Saviour but they found Mary and Joseph too.
There is a Christianity which would push aside Mary and Joseph and focus totally on Jesus. This is not Catholic Christianity. Don’t ever be misled by people who say Mary and Joseph ‘distract’ from Jesus or ‘take away’ from him. When we seek Jesus we find him with Mary, and Joseph - the Holy Family!
Jesus came to earth as a human child, in a human family, with human friends and foes. God wanted it that way. Jesus, too, wanted a family, he needed a family, he had a family and he does not expect us to brush them away. The face of Christ our Saviour is the face of a man standing between his parents.
As Jesus honoured his family so he wants us to honour them. And so let us repeat the Entrance Antiphon whose wording is not a mistake but carries with it this deep mystery about our Redeemer: The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
A famous mystic once wrote on this subject from another angle when he complained about those who ignore the Old Testament and just concentrate on the New Testament. As he said, at that time: I don’t want a Jesus who is not speaking with Moses and Elijah. In our turn we can say: I don’t want a Jesus who is not with Mary and Joseph.
This infant lying in the manger is the Son of Mary but also the father of his own family – a family made up of all those who were to believe in him. Even from the cradle he began to call this family to himself, beginning with Mary and Joseph beside the manger, and then the shepherds, and then the wise men, and then you!
Do you think Jesus would be pleased if others pushed you aside in order to get close to him? I don’t think so. I think Jesus wants you to be in the picture with him, along with all the countless souls he has washed clean in his Blood and now calls his brothers and sisters.
A charming incident is recorded in one of Vassula Ryden’s diaries when Jesus allegedly appeared to her. I say allegedly because these apparitions have not been okayed by the Church.
Anyway, Jesus allegedly appeared to her and Vassula could see there was someone standing behind him. He said “I’ve brought someone”. Vassula then saw who it was and exclaimed, “It’s your Mother!” He said, “Yes, and your mother too.”
If Jesus is our brother then Mary is our Mother too, and Joseph our father. We are members of ‘the Family’.
We join him today as family around the altar on which he will become present and feed us with his Body and Blood. There are many Catholics who will not come to Mass this Sunday. They would sweep us away and say ‘We want only Jesus – we can pray to him at home'.
This is not true Christianity! As Jesus wanted to be found in his family in the stable of Bethlehem so he wants to be found in his family of faith in the Church. Those who want Jesus but not his Church are not fully Christian.
So now, as the Opening Prayer of the Mass says “Let us pray, as the family of God, who share in his life.”