Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 2013
Readings: Nm 6:22-27 / Gal 4:4-7 / Lk 2:16-21
The whole world is awash in blessing today. People bless each other, more than they greet each other a Happy New Year. Countless text messages, facebook private messages and chats, along with innumerable e-messages now clog the information superhighway, more or less filled with the same blessings or at least wishes for more blessings for each other.
This day could not be better chosen to call down God’s blessings on each other, and to be blessings to one another. The liturgy itself, meant primarily to extol the glories of Mary, Mother of God, focuses also on the issue of blessing and being blessed.
The first reading gives the opening salvo. Moses was told to hand on to Aaron the threefold blessing that God’s face might shine on all the Israelites. Our response to the first reading, which is basically a prayer, is more of the same: “May God bless us in His mercy.”
St. Paul, for his part, counts blessings for us. He speaks of the blessing of a gift of God’s Son – “born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law.” That ultimate blessing brings with it a train of other blessings: our adoption as sons in the Son, the gift of the Spirit of the same Son given to us, the gift of freedom in Christ, that makes us capable of calling on God endearingly and familiarly as Abba or Daddy.
In the Gospel passage, Luke counts himself in and extols the channel through which all these blessings took place – Mary the vessel of grace … Mary, the most blessed among all women.
In Mary, what we pray for, what blessing we long for from God, shines out most clearly. In Mary, Mother of God, whose honor and glory the Church acclaims today, who is, in Wordsworth’s words, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” we find reason and meaning to our hopes and desires for more blessings for ourselves and others. Mary, full of grace, and vessel of grace, who bore the author of grace in her womb, counts among our blessings for today, and for the rest of our year of grace, 2007.
We need all the blessings we can get in our times and days. Even on new year’s day, fear surrounds us. Uncertainty beclouds our common future. Al Gore’s “inconvenient truth,” no matter the fierce denials of people who are on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, keeps us all at least worried that we may not have done, and still may not be doing things right with regards to the fragile environment, as we have seen in these recent years in Mindanao. The mass murders of Ampatuan notoriety is far from being a solved case, so many months after the dastardly deed.Terrorism still hovers like a menacing cloud over our peace of mind and serenity of heart. Given the bellicose stance of misguided individual leaders and entire fanatical peoples, governed more by hatred than by piety, our wishes and prayers of blessings for the rest of the entire new year can give us a much needed reprieve and a much needed headstart.
There is enough reason for us to be despondent and discouraged. This much, I confess to you. There were times this past year when I gave in to discouragement and to sadness. There were times last year when I almost felt sorry I worked so hard only to be blamed for things people second-guessed me for. There were times I almost was angry at myself for investing too much in what I believed in, and all I got was blame from individuals who thought I was doing them for personal, self-serving motives. Yes … and a great deal of those accusations, I must tell you, too, came from people who share my work in the common vineyard – people who should have supported me, or who should have rejoiced together with me in the same spirit of Christian hope.
Today, the first day of the new year, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is no such day to wallow in despair and despondency. This is the Good News that I hear. This is the Good News that I preach. This is the Good News that I would like us to dwell on. This good news has nothing to do with frightful trends and with dour prognostications. It has nothing to do with the much-feared and much talked about “clash of civilizations” of Huntington fame. It has absolutely nothing to do with being overtaken and overpowered by paralyzing fear.
This Good News has to do, not with something but with someone!
Eight days ago, we celebrated this good news in person – the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Savior “come into the world.” This “pilgrim God” come in flesh is the good news that came as light to a world walking in darkness.
Today, another person takes center stage in this mosaic of good news that the liturgy takes pains to tell us all year round. And the focus of today’s good news is the woman through whose cooperation the light of the world came in order to dispel the darkness. This is the good news that Paul speaks of in the second reading. “When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman …”
But good news can only be truly good if there are other good people like Mary to keep the news going. This good news can only flourish if there are others like Mary who are ready and willing to make of their lives not only proclamations in faith, but also acclamations of hope. Too bad, most of us, torn by hopelessness and discouragement end up being merely exclamations! We exclaim endlessly: “When will all this end?” “Why me?” “Why does the Lord pick on me?” These are nothing but exclamations born of exasperation, born of the same thing I was guilty of at least for some time – the desolation of hopelessness!
Today, the woman through whom the savior was born takes center stage in our hearts. Mary, vessel, virgin, maiden, and mother, our tainted nature’s solitary boast, is also our fallen nature’s unica spes (unique hope). Mother of Jesus, God and man, Mary is mother of God. Mother of him who is the author of grace, Mary is mother of grace. Through her, grace is dispensed by God. Having born Jesus in her womb, she is vessel and channel of grace.
This new year’s day, we do very well to dwell on the idea of blessing one another, and being blessed by God. But we do best when we start with the most significant blessing of all – the gift of the Savior – born for us through Mary!