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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

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 children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our 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!   They show us, indeed, 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 express our love for God with the word 'Father', Mary, on the other hand, was so devoted and open to God, that the Spirit dwelling with her was completely free to work most wondrously in her, enabling her to respond to God’s calling with a love of such total commitment and a trust of such selfless abandon that the angel’s message could come to total fulfilment with Mary’s ‘Fiat’, and she conceived in her womb the Divine Word Himself -- now Incarnate, the Father’s co-eternal Son -- now  Son of Man!   Indeed, such was the faith with which Mary responded to God’s word delivered to her by the angel Gabriel, that Jesus always and openly praised her for that above all else:
It happened that, as (Jesus) spoke these things, 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)
"Who is My mother, or My brothers?"  And (Jesus) 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)
And, although in this respect the following teaching from one of the Cappadocian Fathers in the early Church is both beautiful and uplifting:
Whenever you receive Christ’s word within you, and let it live in your heart, and build it up with your thoughts as in the womb, then you can be called Christ’s mother;
perhaps the teaching of St. Augustine is more direct and inspirational:
Whoever believes with all his heart and is ‘justified by faith’ (Romans 5:11), he has conceived Christ in the womb.  And whenever ‘with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Romans 10:10) that man has given birth to Christ.   Be you therefore overflowing with fertility in the spirit, and at the same time unchanging in the soul’s virginity.
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 would bless the Chosen People of the Old Testament through the use of certain words of priestly blessing that He gave to Moses for the use of Aaron the priest, his 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 upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.” 
Those are truly beautiful words used to confer a treasured blessing.  But consider how God the Father blesses us, and all who share with us in the New Testament covenant, through Mary and her Son.  For, Mary does not simply hand down, pass on, God-given words for occasional, though repeated, blessing in Israel; she receives and clothes with her own flesh and blood the One Eternal Word of God, and giving Him birth offers mankind its supreme blessing for all time and for eternity.  No longer simply a prayer invoking blessing for Israel, but God's gracious presence in Mother Church for the salvation of 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 you have given us the One through Whom and in Whom all the blessings of heaven itself are ours!
Again, in our Gospel reading we learned that those who searched for the Child found:
            Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger.
So it is for all of us, today: in our search for Jesus, we find Him with Mary.  For, when Jesus was on the point of dying on the Cross of Calvary, He addressed all His future disciples in the person of John, the one apostle standing there at the foot of  the Cross, and told him to take Mary to his heart as his own Mother.  And so, Mary is no mere optional extra, and -- most certainly -- no unwarranted or unwanted complication, for Catholic spirituality.  For we recognize and appreciate that Mary leads each and every one of us to Jesus when we also recall that she is not simply  the model of the Church, but is the Church itself in its origins, and only in Mother Church can each and every one of us find Jesus truly and love Him fully:
            ‘Woman, behold your son!’   Then, to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother’
Finally, we also need to understand that Mary, who is, as it were, Mother Church’s conductor for the Holy Spirit’s lightning and a channel of countless blessings, is also our model and inspiration in our personal relationships with Jesus, in so far as the Scriptures tell us that she, our Mother, was always sublimely one with Jesus:
keeping all these things (that she had experienced and heard concerning Jesus),  reflecting on them in her heart.
There is to be found the supreme example and the ultimate guidance for anyone  longing and hoping to find God our most loving Father in and through Jesus:  imitate Mary by treasuring the Good News of Jesus handed down to us by Mother Church who, with her teaching of the Scriptures, illuminates our minds to understand and appreciate the promised Christ of God; and, through the economy of her sacraments, enables us to fittingly welcome and worship His very presence in our midst and receive Him with whole-hearted and personal love into our  individual hearts and minds.
As children of Mary, therefore, hear the Word of God proclaimed in Mother Church, with reverence and joy; treasure the goodness of His grace in your heart; and, above all, seek to respond – by the Spirit – to the Father, the Giver of all good gifts, with that wholehearted trust and gratitude to which Mary herself gave perfect expression when she said:
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.   (Luke 1:38)
Let us close our considerations with heartfelt words of gratitude and praise for Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour, and His most loving gift to us:
You are the glory of (heavenly) Jerusalem, you are the great boast of (God’s Chosen People), you are the great pride of (all reborn in Christ)! … You have done great good and God is well pleased.  May the almighty Lord bless you forever!”  And all the people said, ‘Amen.’     (Judith 15:9-10)
So be it, today: Amen, amen!  Deo Gratias!!