Homily for the feast of Mary, Mother of God

Year B - Lk. 2:16-21


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."





Homily:


"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."


On the first day of the year 2000, just like every other New Year's Day, the Church consecrates a special solemnity to celebrate Mary, the Mother of God.


We believe that Jesus is the Son of God made man. He is at once and inseparably fully God and fully man. This is what makes Mary, his Mother according to the flesh, the Mother of He who is the Being par excellence, the Being who exists by Himself and of Himself: God.


Ever since the Incarnation of the Word of God, all of our world, all of creation, the lives of all men and women are changed and transformed. Every action in our life can gain a new dimension. Each time that we accomplish a simple human act, such as saying "Good morning!" to our neighbor or to someone who passes us on the street, we can give to this act a dimension that is supernatural, divine, eternal.


Of course, nothing is automatic. It remains a possibility, a faculty that we can put to use, a power, as the philosophers would say, or a potentiality which is offered to us in order that we might accomplish an act of the supernatural order. At its highest point, this potentiality is what allows us to become children of God, to be at once a man (or woman) and an adopted child of God. This is what Saint John says, when he writes: "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God." (Jn. 1:12)


Thus, the shepherds' simple act of going to Mary and the Child Jesus gave them this faculty, this special grace of going to the Lord and Mary in spirit, of lifting up their soul and their being to the Kingdom of God where Christ is King and the Virgin Mary is Queen.


"And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them (...) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them."


According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, the perfect life is that which unites contemplation and action. Moreover, this was one of the reasons why he chose to join the Order of the Friars Preachers when he consecrated himself to God. This was also what the shepherds of Bethlehem practiced when, after having contemplated and adored in spirit the Child God and his blessed Mother, they went back and proclaimed to those they met on the way that a Savior was born and that he lay in a manger.


What these shepherds had contemplated was at the very least surprising and astonishing: the Lord of Lords, the King of Heaven and earth lay in a manger, simple, poor, almost abandoned... What a contrast! And this is what they proclaimed in the surrounding area... Hearing them proclaim this "Good News" was indeed something about which to be surprised and astonished... "All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them."


In the grotto of Bethlehem, Jesus inaugurated his Passion. Throughout his life, Jesus had his eyes fixed upon the Cross of Calvary. For, let us repeat it, Jesus is both God and Man. If, as Man, Jesus lived through some pleasant and happy moments (and this was the case), however, as God, Christ saw, ceaselessly, in the Spirit of the Father - the Spirit who sees at once the past and the future - the ultimate instant when he would finally accomplish the will of the Father: to redeem with his Blood all of fallen humanity.


Such was the Child the shepherd contemplated. Such was the "Good News" they proclaimed in the surrounding area. What God reveals to man is never unmixed: it is always composed of both pleasant and unpleasant information.... Actually, the information we find unpleasant is not so in fact: it is we, whose sight is obscured and blinded by sin, who find it unpleasant. "All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them."


"But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart."


Mary contemplates her son, the Son of God! Mary knows all the Scriptures perfectly. She knows that the Messiah would reign over Israel: he is the descendant of King David. But she also knows that Christ would be a suffering Messiah, one who would be rejected by his People. So, knowing all this, she draws all she can from the Heart of God, from her child, whom she has just brought into the world. Mary meditates, she prays, she contemplates God within her, she listens to the divine Spirit who is now her Spouse, her Beloved. She goes to the depths of He who is the very Power of God, she draws from this divine energy. For, she will have need of force, power, and energy throughout her life. Certainly, Mary is "full of grace" (Lk. 1:28). But grace always requires a human correspondence, a response of faith from the man or woman to whom grace is given. So, Mary draws from the Heart of her Child all the power she needs in order to respond, day after day, to the fullness of grace which belongs to her.


"And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."


Eight days after his birth, the Child of Mary was circumcized and he was given the name of Jesus. Eight days after Christmas: today is that day. This is why, up until the liturgical reform carried out by the Council of Vatican II, we celebrated on this day the Circumcision of our Lord. This did not prevent the Liturgy of the Hours from celebrating on this day the Glories of Mary and from consecrating to the Mother of God the majority of the Antiphons of the canonical Hours.


Mary and Joseph were faithful in doing the will of God with respect to the name of the Child who had just been born. Both of them received a command from the Angel of the Lord, telling them that the Child was to be called "Jesus". (cf. Mt. 1:21 and Lk. 1:31).


May Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds of Bethlehem show us the path we must follow in order to faithfully do the will of God! May the Holy Spirit be our guide, and may what he asks us to do be our dearest desire! May Jesus be our Head on the royal road of the Holy Cross, helping us, through his grace, to go from contemplation to action, in order thus to lift up both our soul and the entire world to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!