Holy spirit

Back to the past year. Where was the Holy Spirit at work?

A reflection for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21

We remember so little of our lives. We may not think we’ve run out of childhood memories, but the ones we retain are just such a small sample of those years. Do you know who remembers your childhood more than you? Your mother.

Men have memories, but we tend to turn to mothers and grandmothers when we want to know our past. They have stories, even about us, that we don’t remember.

For example, my mother told me that as a baby I caught an infection that undermined me. My grandmother prayed for the good Lord to take me. And I have no memory of wanting to surprise my mother with a gift of flowers, which I piled into my little red cart. She tells me that the neighbor, who had just planted them, was terribly kind to me to pull them up.

We seldom see the Holy Spirit approach. More often than not, we see the Spirit in the wake it leaves.

The account of Saint Luke’s childhood mentions the memory of Mary twice. When the shepherds leave the manger, we are told, “Mary has kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19). And when the child Jesus is discovered teaching the wise men of Israel in the temple, he obediently accompanies his parents to their home in Nazareth. Again, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:51).

This is perhaps the reason why the tradition of the early Church assumed a living link between the Virgin and the evangelist. Did St. Luke have access to a mother’s personal memories?

This question cannot be answered, but we do know that evangelists only record material that they deem necessary for the training of future disciples. We are those disciples. Why are we told twice that Mary, whom St. Luke and later St. John constantly present as a model disciple, “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart”?

We discover God in the world, but how come we see what another cannot? Because, like Our Lady, we have reflected and meditated in prayer.

The answer is quite salient in the new year. Disciples are meant to examine their lives. This is where we discover the Holy Spirit. We seldom see the Holy Spirit approach. More often than not, we see the Spirit in the wake it leaves. This is why it is important for us to look back. Are we growing or shrinking as human beings? Are we more or less in love than we were? Are we closer or further from the Lord whom we love?

We are constantly changing, but trying to observe ourselves doing so is a bit like watching a philodendron grow. Surely it is, but you don’t see much by looking. It is useful to periodically assess who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. Comparing yourself today to a year ago is much more telling than, say, yourself and yesterday. We need this “fullness of times” of which Saint Paul speaks (Gal 4:4).

In the preface to the Christmas Mass during the night, we pray:

For in the mystery of the Word made flesh, a new light of your glory has shone in the eyes of our spirit, so that, recognizing in him God made visible, we may be enraptured by him in the love of things invisible.

Certainly, we discover God in the world, but how is it that we see what another cannot? Because we still looked with our mind’s eyes. Because, like Our Lady, we have reflected and meditated in prayer.