Mary, Mother of God
Jan. 1, 1979
Gal 4: 4-7
Luke 2: 16-21
Guardian Angels, Harvey, La.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Westwego, La.
This New Year’s Day (2017) I was traveling. Here’s the 1st homily I ever preached for this special solemnity in honor of the Mother of God.
|by Robert Campin (c. 1375-1444)|
The Christmas liturgy has for centuries focused on 2 key persons in the history of salvation: Jesus and Mary. He is the long-awaited Savior; she is the instrument in the Father’s plan of salvation. He is the Son of God, made man; she is the most highly favored daughter, become a mother.
Today let us turn our attention briefly to 2 aspects of Mary’s part in the divine mystery of the Incarnation. 1st, St. Paul writes, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman … so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). 2d, St. Luke records, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
“God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” Jesus is fully human. He was born like any other person. That he should be a complete, genuine member of our race is important, even necessary. The Fathers of the Church are fond of saying that unless Christ is truly man, we men are not truly redeemed, and likewise, unless he is truly God, we are not truly redeemed either. And St. Paul implies such divinity quite strongly when he says, “God sent forth his Son … that we might receive adoption as sons.” By taking on our condition right from the moment of his entry into our lowly history, the Son has raised our status to his own glorious place. As the early Fathers express it, “God became man in order that man might become God.” And a key role in this divine plan is the glorious one assigned to and accepted by Mary, the beautiful but demanding role of motherhood, the role without which the Son of God could not have become the son of man.
“Mary kept all these things in her heart.” Luke tells of the wonders surrounding the Savior’s birth and how the shepherds marvel and retell the story and lead others to marvel too; and how Joseph is present. But only Mary reflects on these things and what they might mean. She is apparently the only one of all these figures to begin to penetrate God’s mysterious workings. She is surely the only one to reappear later on in Jesus’ active ministry and in the early days of the Church as one of the believers. Her place as 1st believer may begin with her “yes” to Gabriel at the annunciation scene in Nazareth. But what she does now in Bethlehem is no less important. She stores away in her memory and turns over in her heart what she has seen, heard, and felt. In a word, she meditates upon God’s workings in her life. She reflects upon what God is doing for his people through her. Thus she prepares herself to go beyond the beautiful role of motherhood to the greater one of discipleship. Remember, it is also Luke who records the episode of a woman in the crowd crying out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you,” and of Jesus’ response, “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (11:27-28)—which is exactly what Mary is doing.
Perhaps many of you are pondering over New Year’s resolutions. That marvelous Christian masterpiece, the Imitation of Christ, tells us that if we were to correct one fault each year, we would soon become perfect. For myself, I don’t know about the “soon” part, but for all of us, I suggest a step in that direction: To imitate Mary’s discipleship, her meditation, her prayer. Advice columnist Abby Van Buren yesterday recommended: “Just for today I will have a quiet half hour to relax alone. During this time I will reflect on my behavior and will try to get a better perspective of my life.” If we do that each day with the help of God’s holy Word, in the context of prayer, our lives will begin to look more like Mary’s and like her Son’s.
May God’s peace reign in your hearts.