For the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Year B, we have a beautiful homily by Father Hanly about Mary, our Mother.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
Recording of Gospel
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
It is indeed fitting that we praise Mary. Praise Mary not because she is the mother of Jesus, but because she is our own mother.
And during this Christmas season, when all the wonders are told about Jesus being born, God made flesh, the Incarnation, and all kinds of theological wonders about it, we think of the simple little girl who gave birth to the child that would change the world and would change our lives.
And this is the great moment of joy and happiness that has come down through the centuries. Think of all the people who do not look upon her as Theotokos, the mother of God, but they look upon it in the way Jesus told us to look upon it, and that is as our mother. The same role that she had with her only son, Jesus, the Lord.
I suppose everybody has their favourite Mary stories. I remember as a child, Mary seemed to be a very, very big part of our spiritual lives as children. And that was because children understand what it means to be with or without a mother. They understand that everybody can pass away, but as long as the mother is there, everything’s alright with the world.
I remember in St. Joseph’s, where I was for a while, we had a crib set. And the crib set, it was a beautiful crib set and nobody wanted to see the crib set changed for any reason at all. But down through the years it became kind of broken up a little bit. And then there would be a shepherd and he’d be taped up at the back, but at a distance you couldn’t see it. And then, of course, there was St. Joseph and somebody fell on his head and he had to be taped up.
And pretty soon all the characters were in need of taping, except two. The only two that were left, when we finally decided to get a new crib set, was Jesus and Mary. Mary was there looking down at Jesus and Jesus was looking up at her.
And this was a crib set.
But it was very biblical because you know when the three kings come, they usually come to a crib set that’s so crowded they have no room for them. They have the animals and the shepherds and everybody crowded around, but in reality it wasn’t like that.
As Matthew explained it, the three kings came to worship Jesus and they found a child and his mother. That is all that is mentioned.
Probably one of the most favourite of my stories are the stories about Mary taught at our mother’s knees. And I always remember, especially in times of great turmoil, the one where Peter is at the gates of Heaven and Jesus comes up to him and he says, “Peter, I don’t think you’re really doing your job. You know you’re only supposed to be bringing in the ones who are good and kind and forgiving, but there are some rowdies getting in there, people that I don’t know whether they really belong.” And Peter would say, “Lord, don’t blame me. I refuse to let them in, but they run around to the back and your mother lets them in through the window.”
That’s Mary. And I think, especially as children, you feel that no matter how bad you are, even when your own mother might not be too happy with you, that Mary would always forgive you.
In fact, when I used to get in trouble at school, which was quite often, I would pray on the way home, “Now, Mother Mary, I don’t care what happens, just don’t let my mother find out about it.” And sure enough, no matter what happened, I never got bawled out twice. You see in those days, if the teacher bawled you out at school, you never mentioned it to your parents, because they would take turns bawling you out two, three, four, five times. You were always the one at fault.
But it was the presence of Mary, the assuring presence of Mary down through the years, that I think we carry with us. It’s a feeling of warmth, a feeling of safety, a feeling that she understands.
You think of the little teenage girl who was asked to become the mother of God and it goes beyond our ideas and our ability to imagine what that must have meant for her. Except that she knew that everything would be changed and she would never have another life of her own. Because to say yes to God would mean that she would give her whole heart, her whole soul, her whole life, her whole future, into His hands.
But that is was what she did. She gave it freely. “Be it done to me according to your word.”
We think of Jesus, of course, in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking his Father to take away the dreadful chalice of horror that was awaiting him at the crucifixion. And he said, he was his mother’s child, he said, “Not as I will, Father, but as thou wilt.”
And so it is today, with these simple little stories, we get an insight into God and what it means to have Mary for a mother.
For she is the one who becomes her son’s first disciple: loving the way God loves, constantly giving; caring the way God cares, constantly present; worrying the way God worries, as Jesus worried about his disciples, and the way he worried about us in our world, to be with us, to be with his mother as they made sure that the life that our Father has given us is kept safe, that the life our Father has given us will bring new life to the world when we understand that Mary loved the way she loved, constantly giving, and Jesus, of course, loved the way he loved, constantly giving.
And they teach us that the Almighty God high up in Heaven is just a father who is constantly caring, constantly giving, and teaching us all how to love.
The miracle of Christmas is the miracle of weakness become strength. It is the miracle in knowing that this simple little girl, seventeen, eighteen years old, has become the mother of us all.
And today we salute her, we honour her, but, most of all, we still call her Mary, our mother.
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This homily was delivered on 1st January 2009.
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