Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Parish, New Bedford
Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
January 1, 2006
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 — a 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, the side of which was right across the street from 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. “When the fullness of time had come,” we hear in today’s second reading, “God sent his Son, born of a woman.” So often we look at Mary as a model of the faith, ready to believe in what God said to her and asked of her from a very young age. She is a model of loyalty, who remained loyal to her Son all the way until his bloody death on the Cross. She is the model of discipleship, known not so much for what she achieved for God as for what she received from Him. That’s, too, why she is our model of prayer, for, as we see in today’s Gospel, she would treasure all God’s words and ponder them in her heart. But today we concentrate on something else, what is in a sense the single greatest reality about her existence: Mary’s virginal 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 Trinity, she was not just the mother of the human nature of Jesus Christ but the mother of God. This is an incredible mystery, that she would be the mother of the One through whom all things, including her own soul, were made. But the mystery doesn’t stop there. God the Father had chosen her not just to be the “bearer” or “incubator” of his eternal Son according to his human nature, but his Mother. She was also chosen to RAISE him. Since Jesus, however, was 100% man at the same time that he was 100% God, he would, like us, have to learn how to accomplish most human activities. He learned those from Mary and Joseph. Mary taught Jesus how to talk, how to pronounce the Aramaic he’d eventually speak. She taught him how to read and pronounce the Hebrew in his prayers. It’s an amazing reality that just like we learn how to talk to God in prayer to a large degree from our parents when we’re young, so Jesus according to his humanity learned how to speak to His Father in prayer through Mary. Mary did not merely physically breast feed Jesus when he was an infant, but she continued spiritually to 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, like any child, could assimilate. Mary was the one who would get the young Jesus ready for the Synagogue on Saturday. She 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 was ready to be about his “Father’s business” at the age of 12. He was 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 (Lk 2:46-49). 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 (Mt 5:13). It was from her that he learned you don’t sew old patches on new clothing (Mt 9:16). With St. Joseph, Mary was chosen by God the Father to raise His Son. 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 Jesus hung upon Calvary, as he was giving his blood to the ground, 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” (Jn 19:25-27). 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. Jesus had come down from heaven to form a family, and, as he said during his public ministry, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). Mary is the mother of Christ and the mother of the family he established because not only does she hear God’s word and put it into practice, but she, like a good mother, can help us to do the same. “Behold your Son!” “Behold your mother!” 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, to be saints, to be ready for heaven, to treasure the word of God, ponder it in our hearts and act on it. Jesus, through the Church he founded, invites us at the beginning of this new civil year to follow the example of John and take Mary 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 did for Pope John Paul II during his 85 years.
5) Today at this Mass, Jesus looks upon us with love. As he is about to give us the same body and blood which he gave on the Cross, he sees his mother and sees each of us. He turns to his Mother and says, “Behold your son,” “Behold your daughter.” And he says to each of us, “Behold your mother!” He wants and hopes that each of us will do what his first beloved disciple wisely did, and take Mary into our home, into our lives. This is the new year’s resolution he asks of us. If we allow Mary to teach us how to become more like her Son, then this year which has just begun will be a true “year of the Lord” and lead us one step closer to eternal life. “Mary, you are my mother now!”