Today's homily on the Solemnity of Mary is really a wonderful reflection of how intricately Mary is intertwined in our understanding of salvation history through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"One of the questions I get repeatedly, whether I’m ministering at the jail, or speaking with non-Catholic Christians, is to explain the Catholic position on Mary. We very often get accused of idol worship, when it comes to Mary and the other saints, and that is just wrong. Additionally, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk about our faith with some of the young adults of our parish this week and I must say I came away with great hope for our future. But they had many questions about the teachings of our faith, so I’d like to get a little catechetical for a minute this morning, and revisit the fundamental teachings of our Faith concerning Mary as Mother of God, all the while keeping today’s Gospel in mind.
Mary is the Mother of God, which is what we celebrate today – This teaching came to us from the Council of Ephesus in the year 431. (BTW) The Council declared Mary as the Theotokos which means God-bearer in Greek. Why is this important? This is important to know so we understand who Jesus was and why he came. Jesus comes to us as fully human and fully divine. The only way we can be saved is by Jesus being fully human and fully divine and He being the only one who can fill the division between God and man by His cross and resurrection. Mary being the Mother of God has more to do with who Jesus is than who Mary is. Here we need to pause for a second and realize that all of our dealings with Mary are to go through her and TO her son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. At no time do we pray to Mary, we pray THROUGH Mary. Our relationship with Mary is one of ADORATION. We do not worship Mary in any sense. This adoration is in the sense of honoring, as one of our commandments is to “honor thy father and mother”, and as we are all united by Jesus into God’s family, we do well to adore Mary in the same way Our Lord would. Can we have a relationship with God through Jesus without Mary? Yes, but why would we? We know Our Blessed Mother is alive and with God and Jesus in heaven. She is more than a willing intercessor, and if you ask me, she’s got a pretty good track record when it comes right down to it.
Mary as the Mother of God also gives us our teaching on the Immaculate Conception in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. Most simply put, the Immaculate Conception makes perfect sense because as God is pure, God can only touch that which is pure, so Mary would have to have been preserved from original sin in order to be pure and be able to be the Theotokos. Mary was redeemed by Jesus but in a more preventive act. For example, if you fall into a pit and someone pulls you out, that person has saved you. If someone else is about to fall into the pit but is stopped before they fall, that person has also been saved, but in a preventive way. Mary was saved by Jesus from the stain of sin in that preventive way, again to be pure and fulfill her mission as the Theotokos.
So what does Mary being the Mother of God mean to us? It’s really all about example. Mary was fully human, not divine, and even though she was born without sin, she gives us the greatest example of how to live our lives in faith. In our Gospel today, St. Luke mentions that once the shepherds visited, Mary kept all these things in her heart and reflected on them. This is our first example of how to live a life of faith. Mary did not only move through life from event to event mindlessly, she paused to contemplate and reflect on the significance of each event in her life. This contemplation and reflection puts us in touch with the will of God. Contemplation and reflection help us to always be aware of God’s presence in our lives and continually form ourselves in the truths of the faith so we can make those truths real and apply them in our every day experiences. Applying the truths of our faith to every day experiences is the real key to evangelization and drawing others to our faith. Others will see Jesus in our actions and hopefully accept our invitation to fullness of life in God through the Catholic Church.
Mary also gives us an example of obedience to the will of God in our Gospel. In full obedience to Jewish tradition, Mary and Joseph circumcise Jesus and name Him according to the instructions giving by the Angel Gabriel. Our world and our cultural and let’s be honest, WE, struggle mightily with obedience to God and Mary’s example helps us to see that God can only work through us if we surrender ourselves in obedience.
For the Church, New Year’s Day also signifies a day to pray for global peace in the coming year. A perfect prayer for peace is found in our Old Testament reading from Numbers. This peace can only be achieved by also following the example of Mary. At the Annunciation, Mary’s response of “Let it be done to me according to your Word”, is a perfect example of how we need to respond to God’s call to us. Through that response at the Annunciation, Mary becomes the first and perfect disciple of Jesus. Mary surrendered herself entirely to God’s will and allowed God to form her into everything He intended her to be in the Theotokos. In the same way, we need to respond to our call from God and allow Him to form us into what He created us to be and then we can also become a perfect disciple.
Mary’s example goes beyond just her response. Please don’t think for a minute that Mary knew exactly what was coming and the whole experience of her life with Jesus was scripted. I doubt very much that after the angel Gabriel left Mary that she would’ve envisioned the Savior of the world being born in a stable. I doubt very much she would’ve envisioned having to hurriedly flee to Egypt to escape Herod and the deaths of the Holy Innocents. I doubt very much that Mary completely understood what Simeon meant when he said her heart would be pierced with a sword at the Presentation. I doubt very much Mary expected the controversy Jesus’ public ministry would bring. I doubt that Mary had any idea what Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday would ultimately mean. And I doubt Mary knew what was coming and was unaffected by the events of the Passion, as she watched her only Son suffer and die on the cross. Mary truly gives of herself in complete faith and trust and relies on God entirely. We also do not know what the future holds, and the example Mary gives us of complete faith, trust, and dependence God are the only way we will survive life’s difficulties.As we come to the table of the Eucharist this morning, let us receive Our Lord while we contemplate the examples of Mary and give of ourselves in the cause for global peace. As the old song goes “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”, by following Mary’s examples, surrendering ourselves to God’s will, and depending on Him completely we can be the means by which peace begins and lasts right here and now."