If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Mary, Mother of God 2014

Mary, the Mother of God

(Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

In today’s 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 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 aspiration to and love for God with the human words 'Abba, Father'; Mary, on the other hand, responding to God’s call with love of such total commitment and a trust of such selfless abandon, was enabled to conceive in her womb and ultimately to ‘express’ God’s Divine Word Himself – allowing the Father’s co-eternal Son to find human ‘expression’ as Son of Man!   That was the faith for which Jesus openly praised her:

While He was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that carried You and the breasts at which You nursed.”   He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  (Luke 11:27-28)

Indeed, it was that faith and commitment which Jesus appreciated in and associated with Mary above all else: 

"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.”   (Numbers 6:23-27)

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 and unfailing 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 in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him.  In love, He destined us for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favour of His will, for the praise of the glory of His grace that He granted us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us.  (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!

In our Gospel reading we learned that those who searched for the Child found:

            Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger.

Matthew, however, in his Gospel (2:11), makes no mention of Joseph when the Magi come into the presence of the new-born King of the Jews:

On entering the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Perhaps Luke was intent, as was his wont, to give us the historical picture, whereas Matthew gives us his more theological understanding of the scene.   Whatever the reason, Matthew’s version is exact 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: 

            ‘Woman, behold your son!’   Then, to the disciple, ‘Behold your 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 for the Church, but 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.

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, through her presentation and preaching 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 presence in our midst by receiving Him with whole-hearted personal love and commitment, allowing Him to rule our lives as disciples on earth and beseeching Him to fulfil our aspirations as children for heaven. 

Therefore, hear the Word of God proclaimed in Mother Church with reverence and joy; treasure the goodness of His grace in your mind and with 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, the surpassing joy (and) splendid boast of (of all reborn in Christ).  With your own hand you have done all this; you have done good and God is pleased with what you have wrought.  May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty forever and ever!  And all the people answered, “Amen!” (Judith 15:9-10)

So be it, today: Amen, amen!  Deo Gratias!!