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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Solemnity of Mary,
the Mother of God,
(Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

In the second reading we heard St. Paul telling his converts in Galatia:
As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
Those words of St. Paul invite us today to consider how wonderfully the Spirit dwelt in the heart of Mary!  Indeed, they show us the magnitude of her blessing when we consider that the Spirit abided in and filled her whole being to such an extent that, whereas we are enabled by the Spirit, Paul tells us, to respond with love to God with the word 'Father', the Spirit dwelling in Mary worked so wondrously in her that she was enabled to respond to God the Father with an intensity of love that enabled her to bring forth not just words of praise for the Father from her lips, but the Divine Word, the Father’s co-eternal Son made Man, from her womb!   And so intense, so complete and unreserved, was this response of Mary to God’s word delivered to her by the angel Gabriel, that Jesus openly praised her for that above all else:
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"  But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:27-28)
When, on another occasion, His teaching of the people was interrupted by a message to the effect that His mother and family members were asking for Him, He expressed His displeasure at such an intrusion by making perfectly clear the priorities that guided and governed His life and work:
"Who is My mother, or My brothers?"  And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother." (Mark 3:33-35)
We can also compare and contrast Mary with Moses who, as you heard in the first reading, brought great blessings down on Israel.  There, we were told how God blessed the Chosen People of the Old Testament through the words of priestly blessing He gave to Moses for the use of Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and their descendants:
Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them, 'This is how you shall bless the Israelites.  Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you!  The LORD let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!  The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace.'  So shall they invoke My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
Those are truly beautiful words used to confer a treasured blessing.  But consider how, under the New Testament covenant, God the Father blesses us through Mary and her Son: unlike Moses, Mary does not hand down one special form of blessing for one Chosen People; she brings forth the One Eternal Word of God Himself clothed in human flesh, her flesh and blood, God's saving presence in Mother Church and gracious blessing for the whole world!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.  (Eph 1:3-8)
Holy Mary, you are indeed blessed above all women by God the Father, for through you there comes to us the One in Whom and through Whom all the blessings of heaven itself are ours!
Again, in our Gospel reading we learnt that those who searched for the Child found:
            Mary (and Joseph), and the Babe lying in a manger.
So it is for all those disciples whom Jesus has told to take Mary to their hearts as their own Mother: in our search for Jesus, we will find Him, most easily and most surely, with the help and comfort of Mary’s prayerful presence in our lives.  Mary is no mere addition, certainly no complication, for Catholic spirituality.  Indeed, we can readily appreciate the privilege of Mary that enables her to lead each and every one of us to Jesus when we recall that she is not simply the model of the Church, but that, during her pregnancy she was, in all literal truth, the original Church itself, the unique dwelling place on earth of Jesus, God’s Son made flesh, the New Testament Ark of God’s presence among His People; and that she still is the purest essence of the Church, without spot of wrinkle of any sort.  Only in Mother Church can each and every one of us find Jesus truly and love Him fully.
Finally, we need to recognise that Mary is also our model and inspiration for our personal relationship with Jesus, in so far as the Scriptures tell us that she, our Mother, was, and is always, most sublimely one with Jesus:
Mary kept all these things (that she had experienced and heard concerning Jesus) and pondered them in her heart.
There is to be found the supreme example and the surest guidance for anyone seeking the salvation of God, for anyone hoping and longing to find God, as our most perfect Father, in and through Jesus.  Imitate Mary by treasuring the Good News of Jesus handed down to us by Mother Church: in her teaching which forms us as His disciples, and in her Scriptures which not only recount for us the foretelling and forthcoming of the Christ, but also, together with her sacraments, mediate His very presence in our midst and in our hearts today.
People of God, hear the Good News of Jesus with reverence and joy; treasure and nurture His grace in your hearts; and seek, above all, to respond – by the Spirit -- with that wholehearted confidence in, and gratitude to, God, to which Mary gave such perfect expression when she said (Luke 1:38):
Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.