The Birth of Our Lady and the Purpose of Life, September 8, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 8, 2014
Rom 8:28-30, Ps 13, Mt 1:18-23

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • As today we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of our Lady, we can ponder how great was the joy of this day not only for Joachim and Anne but also for God. We can imagine, to the extent humanly possible, what it must have been like for the eternal Son of God to be looking at the birth of the little girl who about 14 years later would become his own mother and give birth to him in the Gospel scene we’ve just heard. We can look at the baby Mary with the joy-filled eyes and hearts of her parents and Son as she was an infant and began to grow, thoughts that even many with strong Marian devotions seldom contemplate.
  • God the Father had had Mary in his sights since the beginning of time. St. Paul tells us that he has “chosen us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world to be holy and immaculate in his sight” (Eph 1:4), and how could he not be thinking of Mary as the icon of this divine election? We know that that the very instant of the fall, her advent was prophesied as the one in whom God would place an enmity for the serpent. Today, she who had been immaculately conceived was born.
  • She was born according to a template. St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading that “those [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Mary was most certainly conformed to the image of the Holy One who would become the blessed Fruit of her womb and he, according to his humanity, would be conformed, mysteriously, to her earthly image. And this was a “shaping together” (literally con-formation) that would be manifested mutually throughout life, as her fiat would anticipate his, as her desire to help a young married couple would become his first miracle, as her pierced heart would emulate his pierced with a lance, as his glory would become reflected in her forever.
  • It’s important for us whenever we celebrate a Marian feast to make explicit Mary’s Christocentric conformation, not just to avoid Protestant misinterpretations that we give Mary the homage that is only due to God, but also to help us deepen our own appreciation not only for our spiritual mother’s vocation and mission but for our own. Normally for us the celebration of a birthday is always an occasion to think with gratitude to God and to our parents for the gift of human life — and that is a very good thing to do! — but Mary’s birthday is a celebration of something more. As we see in today’s Gospel and know from throughout her life, she was born with a purpose, to be the Mother of God according to his humanity. She was born to conform her life to him. As we think about her birth, her early days, her upbringing and her life, it’s natural for us to think of our own, and it’s key for us to grasp that we, too, have been born with a similar purpose, to be conformed to Jesus in this life and, God-willing, forever. Sometimes in our Marian piety we can focus so much on her inimitable privileges — like her Immaculate Conception, the virginal conception and birth of Jesus, her raising the Son of God, her sharing in his passion, and her sharing even in her body in his resurrection and heavenly life — that we can miss the emulable qualities of her life. Today the great birthday present she’d like for us to give her would be to allow her to help us conform ourselves, like she was, to the image of her Son, to conform ourselves to his Word and let ourselves develop in accordance with it as she did; to conform ourselves to his holiness as she did; to conform ourselves to his proclamation of the Gospel as she did; to conform ourselves to his salvific suffering as she did; and to conform ourselves as she did to the newness of life he has given us by his triumph over sin and death.
  • The greatest way we do that is here at Mass. We conceive within ourselves first the word of God so that just like Mary did, it may impregnate us and grow within us to such an extent that we are umbilically united with this word until it becomes so big within us that we have to give it to the light. Then the same Jesus whom she bore in her womb for nine months will enter into us so that he can help us to conform ourselves to him from the inside. The purpose of Mary’s birth and life was not merely to be the Mother of God but to help facilitate our becoming like her through the conformation to her Son that is meant to happen in holy communion. Our Amen is meant to imitate her fiat at the annunciation. Let us ask her to pray for us today that we may respond to the graces for which she is interceding for us now with her Son so to conform ourselves to Him in this world that we may be conformed to Him, like Mary, forever.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1: rom 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Responsorial Psalm ps 13:6ab, 6c

R. (Isaiah 61:10) With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Though I trusted in your mercy,
let my heart rejoice in your salvation.
R. With delight I rejoice in the Lord.
Let me sing of the LORD, “He has been good to me.”
R. With delight I rejoice in the Lord.

Gospel: mt 1:18-23

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”