Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Francis Xavier Church, Hyannis, MA
You Are My Mother Now!
Mary, Mother of God, 2004
January 1, 2004
Num 6:22-27; Gal4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21
1) In 1929, just 17 days short of his 9th birthday, the young Karol Wojtyla — the future Pope John Paul II — entered his house during the afternoon. He was accustomed upon his return to see his father — strong soldier in the Polish army — praying on his knees on their parlor’s hardwood floor. That day, when the young Karol, saw his father praying, he saw his dad’s knees bathing in a pool of tears. “What’s wrong, Papa?,” the young future Pope asked his dad. “Karol, your mother has died!” was the elder’s reaction. Not knowing quite what to do, the eight year old ran out of his home to the local parish Church in Wadowice, less than half a block for the Wojtyla apartment. He entered the Church and almost instinctively ran up the aisle of the Church to a kneeler in front of a statue of our Lady and, with his own tears, said to her: “Blessed Lady, I don’t know why God took my mother home at the time he did. But I do know one thing: YOU are my mother now!”
2) “You are my mother now!” Today we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. At the beginning of the civil year, when we’re all led to think about the passage of time, the Church reminds us very strongly of what happened at the fullness of time. In the fullness of time, as we read in the 2nd reading, God sent his son, born of a woman. So often we look at Mary as a model of the faith, and this is fitting, because she is the perfect disciple, who was attentive to the Lord’s presence and ready to say yes, even to the most difficult of vocations, from a very young age. She is the model of faith, who showed her fidelity to her Son all the way until his blood death on the Cross for all of us. But today we focus on something else — we focus on her motherhood.
3) “You are my mother now!” Those words would first have been said by Jesus. Mary is first the Mother of God. Because Jesus Christ is God, the second person of the eternal, Blessed Trinity who fully took on our human nature, she was not just the mother of Jesus Christ but the mother of God, because Jesus is a divine person. Because Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, however, as a man, he needed to go through basically everything we go through as human beings. He needed to learn the most human activities. He learned those from Mary and Joseph. She taught Jesus how to talk, how to pronounce the Aramaic he’d eventually speak, how to read and pronounce the Hebrew in his prayers. Jesus learned how to speak to God in prayer according to his humanity through Mary. Not only did Mary physically breast feed Jesus when he was an infant, but she continued to spiritually breast feed him over the course of his upbringing, digesting herself first the truths of faith and passing them to him in ways that he could assimilate. Mary was the one who would get the young Jesus ready for the Synagogue on Saturday. Mary was the one who with Joseph would make the 60 mile walk up with Jesus to the temple three times a year. She was the one who by her example showed him what it meant to put God first above things. She did that so effectively that just as she was ready to say yes to God in all things from the tender age of fourteen when Gabriel appeared to her, so Jesus, at the age of 12, was ready to be about his “Father’s business,” so prepared in the knowledge of the Scriptures according to his humanity that he was able to amaze the greatest experts of the law over a three day period with his questions. Jesus learned so much of the human wisdom he used in his parables from her as well. It was from her and her cooking that he learned about the effects of salt, which he would then use to call us the salt of the earth. It was from her that he learned you don’t sew old patches on new clothing. God the Father had chosen her not just to be the “bearer” or “incubator” of his eternal Son according to his human nature, but Mother. She was also chosen to RAISE him. Today we celebrate what a great job she did.
4) But this feast doesn’t end there. Today we focus on more than her raising Jesus. While he hung upon Calvary, as he was giving his blood to the groung, his body to the Cross, and his soul to His Eternal Father, he looked at his beloved disciple — John, standing there for all of us — and gave us everything he had left. He gave us his spiritual last will and testament. As we read in St. John’s Gospel, “Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” This was Mary’s second annunciation. Whereas in the first in Nazareth, God sent the angel to let Mary know that she was to become the Mother of the Messiah, in this second annunciation, Jesus himself told her the news, that she was to be the mother of the family of God. “Behold your Son!” Jesus wanted his disciples, he wanted us, to have his Mother as our own so that she could raise us to be like her son, raise us to be saints, raise us to be ready for heaven. Jesus, through the Church he founded, invites us at the beginning of this new civil year to follow the example of John and take her into our “homes,” take her more and more into our lives, so that she might do with us what she did with Jesus, what she did with St. John and the other apostles, what she has done for Pope John Paul II during his 83 years.
5) “You are my mother now!” Jesus wants each of us to make those words our own. The Holy Father, who entrusted himself to our Lady before his ninth birthday, has continued to consecrate himself to her since. His very motto, “Totus Tuus,” comes from a prayer of consecration to our Lady written by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, which has prayed every day: “I am all yours, O Mary, and all I have is yours. I take you completely into my home. Give me your heart, O Mary,” so that I may love God with it. I invite you to follow the lead of the Holy Father in this year, on this day of new year’s resolutions, entrusting yourself to the maternal loving care of our Lady, because she will infallibly and always lead us to her Son, both in this life, and in the next.
7) “You are my mother!” Pope John Paul II has also several times consecrated the Church and the world to the maternal care of the Blessed Mother. At the beginning of this centennial year of our Diocese of Fall River, our Shepherd, Bishop George Coleman, has done the same. Our diocese is dedicated to the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of the Assumption. One hundred years ago, Bishop William Stang, the first bishop of our diocese, consecrated the faithful to her and this year, his seventh successor, a native son of our diocese, is renewing that consecration. At the beginning of this Mass, we incensed our Diocesan Jubilee Icon, which Bishop Coleman recently blessed. This icon will be venerated in all the Churches of our diocese throughout the year. It depicts Mary surrounded by the apostles during that first Pentecosts and encourages us to follow the example of those first followers of the Lord, who huddled around Mary, to learn from her how to pray, to learn from her how to be ready for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to learn from her how to say yes to God in all things. The bishop has blessed small holy cards for each of our parishioners. On one side, you will find a copy of that beautiful image. On the back side, there is a copy of a prayer that our Bishop is asking every one of the faithful in the Diocese to pray during this Jubilee Year. You will receive one as you leave following today’s Mass. Please pray it and enter into the mystery of the Church which is seen in that Pentecost scene. There are no coincidences in God. We are alive at this time in this Diocese of Fall River. God wants this Jubilee year to be one of a great rebirth of faith, a new Pentecost, a new Acts of the Apostles in southeastern Massachusetts, with each of us — and that includes YOU — playing a starring role. The apostles were not the brightest, most courageous, most talented men Jesus could have found. They were, in fact, simple and ordinary. But, learning from Mary, their spiritual mother, they prayed that the Holy Spirit might strengthen them so that they might be faithful witnesses to Christ and bring his great news out to the whole world. We, too, might not be the most talented, the most virtuous, but, with Mary’s help, prayers and example, we can be filled by that same Holy Spirit to continue to build up Christ’s Church for our salvation and that of the whole world.
8 ) During this Mass, we enter into the Upper Room, where Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist, in which we share live every time we participate in the Mass. This is the same upper room where the apostles were huddled 53 days later that first Pentecost. Mary and they are with us here, as we receive the same Jesus in the Mass that they received. This is the best place for us to pray our Diocesan centennial prayer for the first time:
God our Father, your Son, Jesus Christ, brought the Church into being by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Grant your blessing to the Church of the Diocese of Fall River as we observe this Centennial year. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our patroness, who was present with the disciples at Pentecost, grant continued growth to this family of faith. Enlighten us that we may discern the Spirit’s action in the accomplishments of the past. Inflame our souls with the Spirit’s power that we may continue to carry out the work that is ours as followers of Christ. Fill us with gratitude in this year of jubilee and let us embrace the future with hope, confident that you, the Lord of all time and history, will remain ever with us. We ask this through Christ the Lord.
9) That same Christ, our Lord, looks upon us with love now. He sees his mother and he sees each of us. With the same words he used when he gave his body and blood for us on the Cross, he says to us again, as we prepare to receive that body and blood, “Behold your Mother!” May we take her into our home this year and enter into the school of her heart, so that this year might truly be a “year of the Lord” (anno Domini) and lead us one step closer to eternal life. May each of us say to her, anew this first day of this year, “Mary, you are my mother now!”