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Monday, 31 December 2012

Mary Mother of God (YearC)

Mary, the Mother of God (C)  

(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!"
Today, therefore, Mother Church invites us to consider how wonderfully the Spirit dwelt in the heart of Mary: not just for her admiration and praise, but also for our own great good, and thus, indeed, for the supreme glory of God!
St. Paul’s words reveal to us something of the innermost ‘secret’ of Mary: they speak not what she might have been capable of, able – of herself -- to do, but of what the Holy Spirit Himself did in and through her; indeed, they speak also of what Mary allowed the Holy Spirit to do in and through her.  He did ‘great things’, but could not -- could not because He would not – do them without her co-operation; without her giving-up, losing hold of, indeed, total abnegation of, self; without, that is, her most radical and simple self-forgetfulness.  Such self-emptiness before Him, such total openness for Him, such absolute commitment to Him and His purposes; that indeed, is the secret of Mary:
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Your Will.
So absolute -- so complete and unreserved -- was the response of Mary to God’s initial words delivered to her by the angel Gabriel, that Jesus openly praised her for that above all else (Luke 11:27-28):
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!"
Blessed are those who hear the word of God, who like Mary let that word freely -- like a threaded needle -- introduce the Spirit of God into their lives, allowing Him to  commence His work in them.  Blessed indeed are those who then keep, hold onto, turning neither heart nor head to the right or to the left, but always, simply and solely, allowing God’s word and God’s Spirit to lead them where He will.
We can recall here another Mary of whom the New Testament speaks most clearly in this same vein, for she is able to help us learn something more about Our Lady’s ‘secret’:
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving?  The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. (Luke 10:38-42)
Clearly, important choices have to be made, perhaps friends offended and opposition provoked; at times, even good, very good things left aside, behind, for what is better.  ‘Secretum meum, mihi.’
For further guidance we can also recall the experience of Elijah of old:
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.   The word of the Lord came to him, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by.’  A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.  A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here? ... ‘Go take the road back to the desert near Damascus.  When you arrive you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram... Then Jehu, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you.’  (1 Kings 9, 11-16)
The voice of God had been ardently desired, long awaited, and carefully listened for, by the prophet in his great need.  Ultimately he recognized it by its unearthly calm and peace-breaking quiet which bespoke of holiness and led him to hide his face in his cloak before it, that thus he might listen closely and understand clearly what the Lord would have him do to achieve his destiny.
In our Gospel reading we learnt that those who searched for the Child found:
            Mary and Joseph, and the Infant 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 or wrinkle of any sort.  Only in Mother Church can each and every one of us find Jesus truly and love Him fully, and that we will do most surely with Mary’s indispensable help.
St. Paul is quite explicit: it is the Spirit within us Who cries out Abba, Father!  It is not that He authorises us, permits us, or even, enables us to cry, Abba, Father!  It is the Spirit Himself, first coming to us as God’s gracious and most gloriously mysterious  GIFT -- the sublimely precious fruit of Christ’s sacrifice -- Who thus speaks in us and for us to the Father.  Thus is Jesus, Mary’s Son, born anew in each of us for the Father.   After that, everything depends on just how much ‘room’ – so to speak -- we give the Spirit of Jesus to work freely and fruitfully in us; and that means that we must appreciate, learn from, and adopt in our own lives something of the ‘secret’ of Mary our mother: for that will ultimately determine our human and Christian development as children of God and children of Mary.
We should recognise that Mary is our model and inspiration for our deepest and most personal relationship with Jesus, in so far as she -- our Mother -- was, and is always, most sublimely one with her Son:
Mary kept all these things (that she had experienced and heard concerning Jesus) and pondered them in her heart.
She is the supreme example and the surest guide for anyone seeking salvation; for anyone hoping and longing to find God as our true Father in, through, and with Jesus.  First and foremost, we should 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 foreshadowing and forthcoming of the Christ, but also, with her sacraments, mediate His very presence in our midst as members of His Church, and in our individual hearts as His true disciples 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, gratitude and commitment to, God, to which Mary gave such perfect expression when she said:
            Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Your Will.
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!