Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Mary, Mother of God, Year B
January 1, 2015
Num 6:22-27, Ps 67, Gal 4:4-7, Lk 2:16-21
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following text guided the homily:
“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” This phrase from St. Luke’s Gospel for today’s Solemnity can help us to integrate all that the Church wants us to ponder. It can help us, first, to understand Mary’s maternity. Second, it can assist us to learn how to make the transition from 2014 to 2015 in a spiritual fruitful way. Finally, it can teach us a means to enter more deeply into the Year for Consecrated Life that began a month ago.
But before we get into those three applications, let’s first understand more deeply what St. Luke is saying about the memory of Mary’s maternal heart. The Greek verbs that St. Luke employs to describe how Mary “kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart” are more literally rendered that Mary “put them together” like the pieces of a mosaic and she “held on to them,” the way we would hold onto a treasure. Everything that occurred she treated like the tesserae (pieces) of a mosaic which she connected to all the other pieces that God had given to her up until then and she held on to the whole of what God was doing as if she was grasping on to a treasure. Her memory, in other words, wasn’t the memory of the good mind that remembers telephone numbers, or dates, or raw facts. It’s the memory of a heart that unites every event to previous treasured memories and looks at the pieces within the picture of a whole. We see this type of memory in Mary’s famous hymn of praise called the Magnificat, in which she weaves together the Old Testament praises given my various heroines into a canticle of thanksgiving to God that actualizes all of the experiences of those famous women into her own at the conception of her Son.
Understanding the memory of Mary’s heart helps us to understand better the mystery of her maternity. St. Augustine once told us that Mary conceived the Word of God in “her heart before her womb.” She had already been conceiving the Word of God in prayer before she had ever given Him her own flesh and blood. The incarnation in her womb was one more tessera in the masterpiece of salvation history she treasured within her bosom. Her maternity was, therefore, not just a one-time event, but a continuous action, linking her preparation, the annunciation, the gestation, and the events of Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth, Calvary and every part of Jesus’ life together into a whole she treasured. That’s one of the ways that she was able to remain strong at the foot of the Cross, because she was able to understand what was occurring before her eyes together with everything else that had taken place not only in her life but throughout salvation history.
The first way we’re called to celebrate this Solemnity of Mary’s maternity today is to seek to imitate her maternal heart. We pondered ten days ago on the fourth Sunday of Advent with the help of St. Ambrose, Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa and Pope Benedict XVI that even those there’s only one mother of God in the flesh (Mary), we are all called to be mothers of God according to faith by “conceiving” and “bearing” the Word of God, by “hearing the Word of God and doing it” (Mt 12:46-50), by becoming “impregnated” by Jesus — in his words and in the Word-made-flesh in Holy Communion — and letting the Word and his words continue to grow until we become “ten months pregnant” and have to share him with others. As our spiritual mother, Mary wants to help us to grow in faith, to become more and more like her Son, and one of the most important ways we can do so is by emulating her contemplative heart, piecing together all the events of our life as parts of the whole of a lifetime of God’s love for us — and a history of God’s saving deeds — and then helping us to treasure them all as part of the masterpiece God is seeking to sculpt of our life and through our life in the world.
The second way that understanding the memory of Mary’s maternal heart can help us is to make the transition in time between 2014 and 2015. As we talked about this morning in daily Mass with the help of the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, God wants the passage from year to year to be a passage of “grace upon grace.” God desires us to remember with gratitude the graces of this past year, to allow them to within and to build upon them in the new year that is commencing. Mary’s maternal memory is exactly what we need to do that well. Mary today is interceding for us so that we might examine all of the tesserae God has given us over the course of the past year, to help us to link that to the big picture of what he has been doing in our life, and with gratitude treasure those experiences, including the Crosses. That’s the means by which we will better be able to receive with gratitude the “tesserae upon tesserae,” the “grace upon grace,” that God will give us in 2015. In a special way we can learn from Mary how to link every event, every memory, every grace specifically to Christ. Mary’s memory links Christ to every experience, because she experienced what St. Paul later described, that everything works out for the good for those who love God (Rom 8:28). She’s the one who can help us, through a heart like hers, like this transition from year to year with gratitude for what’s come and with hope for what’s coming.
Mary’s maternal heart can also help us to understand better one of the essential aspects of the Year for Consecrated Life that Pope Francis initiated a month ago. This 14-month ecclesiastical holy year is meant to help not only monks and nuns, religious sisters and brothers, members of societies of apostolic life and secular institutes, consecrated virgins, hermits and widows, but the entire Church, since we’ve all been consecrated to God by our baptism. Mary is the paradigmatic consecrated one and the way we can live out our baptismal consecration best is by imitating her heart. We can examine the essential aspects of the consecrated life that we’ve pondered in several homilies up until now from within the prism of a heart that “puts everything together” and “holds onto” those memories as a treasure. Mary’s maternal memory obviously describes the process of prayer and meditation that is supposed to distinguish the consecrated life of Christians — where we ruminate on everything God gives us in dialogue with him — but it also describes other aspects of the consecrated life. Mary’s maternal memory gives definition to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience: poverty is a living memory that holds on to true wealth, the riches that come from faith; chastity is a living memory that holds on to Christ’s unselfish love; obedience is a living memory that treasures Christ’s words and holds on to him who says “follow me.” Mary’s maternal memory illuminates the eschatological dimension of the consecrated Christian life, as it holds on to the promises of the kingdom and fulfillment of Jesus’ words. Mary’s maternal memory sheds light on the practice of community life, as one remembers each others’ vocational stories and holds on to the work of the Holy Spirit seeking to make us one body, one Spirit in Christ. And Mary’s maternal memory is a source of the consecrated joy, as one remembers that God is present and holds onto him who is Joy-in-the-flesh. To live out the reality of our baptismal, we would do very well to imitate the contemplative nature of Mary’s maternal heart!
In 2014, one of the great events in the life of the Church was the canonization of St. John Paul II at the end of April. St. John Paul II had a tremendous devotion to Mary, taking his motto, “Totus Tuus” (“All Yours, Mary”) from a prayer of consecration to her written by St. Louis de Montfort that the Pope used to pray every day. That prayer of consecration finished, “Praebe mihi cor tuum O Maria!” Give me your heart, O Mary!” Today we turn to our mother and ask her together, “Praebe nobis cor tuum, O Maria!,” Give us your heart, O Mary, a heart that unites all that God does into a coherent whole, into a love story, and holds onto it as a treasure with all our heart, mind, soul strength. To receive the gift of Mary’s maternal heart, to keep everything together and ponder them in our heart, will be that the Lord Jesus will continue to grow within us, for the graces of this past year to develop and be surpassed by the graces of the year to come. Living with Mary’s maternal heart is the way 2015 will be for us a real year of the Lord and the means by which we will grow in the reality of our consecration. As we prepare to receive within the same Jesus whom Mary carried for nine months in her womb, we ask Mary to expedite our request to give us her heart so that we might cherish the experience of union with God the way she did, to link it to everything else that has come into our life until now and to let it become the interpretative key to unite everything that will come in 2015 and beyond. O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, give us your heart and help us to unite everything to your Son with gratitude! Amen!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 Nm 6:22-27
“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.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
reading 2 Gal 4:4-7
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.
Alleluia Heb 1:1-2
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Lk 2:16-21
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.