Friday, January 1, 2016

Homily for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Homily for the Solemnity of
Mary, Mother of God
Jan. 1, 2016
Luke 2: 15-21
Ursulines, Willow Dr., New Rochelle

“They found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger” (Luke 2: 16).

If you want to see how important punctuation is, remove the comma after “Joseph,” and you’ll have the entire Holy Family lying in the manger.

If you want to see how important Mary, Mother of the Lord, is, observe that wherever we find her in the Scriptures, we find her with Jesus.  The sole exceptions are when Gabriel comes to her before the Child’s conception, and in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension.

So Luke tells us that the shepherds hasten to the manger to see the sign that the Lord has revealed to them thru the angels.  And they find not just the newborn king but also his mother and his guardian.  Later in the gospels we’ll meet Mary bringing Jesus to the Temple, seeking him in Jerusalem, prodding him at Cana, pursuing him with other members of the family, and standing with him at Calvary—not many mentions, but always looking for Jesus or accompanying him.

An obvious way for us to read this lesson is imitation.  In some episodes Mary shows the example of looking for Jesus and wanting to be with him and take care of him.  In other places she models staying close to him when she is with him.  When we find Mary, we’ll also find Jesus.  As the Church has often told us, she leads us to him.  Hence we do well to attend to Mary’s place in the sacred Scriptures; to reflect (like her) on her part in the Savior’s life; to care for him—for us, that would mean caring for his Body, his sisters and brothers; to consider what her life and her virtues tell us disciples of her Son.

A 2d lesson, related to that one, is that if we’re looking for Jesus, we may easily go thru Mary.  When we find her, we find him.  When become close to her, we become close to him.  We do well so many times a day to greet her in prayer:  Hail, Mary! and to ask her to pray for us sinners.

When Luke tells us, “Mary kept all these things … in her heart”—not only in today’s passage (2:19) but also in the aftermath of finding the boy in the Temple (2:51)—we may suppose that the “things” she kept includes the people involved in the events, just as we remember people involved in the important parts of our lives, people who are important to us.  We know from John’s gospel (19:26-27) that Mary looks on us maternally, with a mother’s heart.  So we confide ourselves and our concerns to her, especially those that deal with our own or others’ relationship with Jesus, with matters of salvation.  She wants to help us into a close relationship with the Father thru Jesus, a relationship based not on servile obedience to the Law but on family, because in Jesus, her Son, God has adopted us too as his very own children (cf. Gal 4:4-7).

We invoked Mary’s intercession in the Collect.  We prayed that we might “experience her intercession,” for thru her “we were found worthy to receive the author of life.”  The “we” who have been “found worthy” is “the human race,” the prayer says.  We’re not worthy on our own account; on our own account we—the human race—got tossed out of Paradise and cut off from the tree of life.  But thru Mary “the author of life” received humanity, our human nature; and having received that and made it his own, he endowed humanity, the whole unworthy human race, with “the grace [the favor, the gift] of eternal salvation.”  His humanity has become the new tree of life (to make a change in the usual image of the cross as the new tree of life).  His humanity has made us worthy of sharing in his own life.

We pray that Mary, having begun that salvific role of bringing Jesus to us in a historical time and place, will continue now to bring us to him thru her intercession.  We are confident that her motherly love for Jesus and for us will draw us to him and keep us close to him—by her inspirational example of what being a disciple means, and by the power of her prayer for us.

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