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Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

This Gospel reading for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God picks up where the Gospel for the Christmas Mass at Midnight left off, as the shepherds come in search of the sign the angel had announced to them: “You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

Like the magi in the upcoming Gospel for the Epiphany, the shepherds are searching for the newborn King, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. Like the magi, the shepherds are “patron saints” for anyone who has ever asked, “Where is God?”

The Second Vatican Council, whose teachings are a focus of this Year of Faith, acknowledged in its Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) that the search for God is a universal impulse of humanity.

“From ancient times down to the present,’’ the Council wrote, “there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.”

Sometimes that question—“Where is God?’’—comes from what St. John of the Cross described as “the dark night of the soul”—individual situations and entire chapters in one’s life when doubt, adversity, or alienation leave one searching for meaning, for hope, for God. Sometimes it is just the natural desire of the Christian, in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, to “find God in all things.”

There are many examples in our faith communities of people searching for God. Week after week, catechumens are dismissed at the end of the Liturgy of the Word to reflect further on the readings and to discern God’s presence and action in their lives.

Teenagers challenge us to make known in our individual and community lives the God whom we praise in our worship. The sick look for God in their suffering, and the grieving look for God in the death of a loved one. Spouses look for God in their marriage relationships, and children look for God in their families. Single people seek God in the serenity that comes from being alone but not lonely.

We are all, in some way, seekers, and the journey of seeking God has its ups and its downs, its highs and its lows. Baptism does not deliver us from this journey, nor does it guarantee that we will never harbor doubts or questions about God’s presence. It does, however, incorporate us into a community that supports our search with its prayers and its faith. It also assures us that the God whom we seek promises to be with us in our searching.

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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