1 January 2019Mary Holy Mother of God

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Mary Holy Mother of God
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - Cycle C Luke 2:16-21

Do you recall the story? Jesus was taking His morning walk through heaven. He met there nasty people who should be in the other place. Angrily He went to the front gates to bawl Peter out. In his defense, the apostle said, "Lord, when the unworthy come here, I chase them away and tell them to go to hell. But then they go to the back door, knock softly, and your mother sneaks them in." The Christ smiled and apologized to Peter. He promised to go fishing with him soon. Then He whistled softly as He went off to have lunch with Mozart and Bach. Fulton Sheen gave a talk to priests in 1974. He began by quoting a professor from the University of California. The professor claimed that whenever one hears a good word about the Blessed Virgin Mary, one can be sure the author is a Protestant. Also he said if one reads a bad word about the Mother of God, one may suspect the author is a Catholic.

The memorable archbishop conceded that this was an exaggeration. But in the next breath he mentioned that "it must be said that two of the best books on the Blessed Virgin were written by Protestants." The first was called a Treatise on Mary by the monks of Taize. The second was Meditations on the Rosary by Methodist minister Neville Ward. I leave you to your own judgment on the university professor's point and Sheen's reaction. But what is certain is that our American bishops said that a recent August 15 Feast of the Assumption was not a Holy Day of obligation. It fell on a Monday. Accordingly, very few Catholics took themselves to Mass to honor this extraordinary woman. The parishes about me had but one Liturgy and that sparsely attended. Somehow I felt the only mother God ever had, in the words of Vincent McCorry, deserved much better. Ironically, though, in that same month and year an edition of that most secular of magazines, The New Yorker, did not ignore the Virgin. The weekly in a full page piece alluded to a book The Jewish 100: a Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of All Time.

The author is a Jewish gentleman, Michael Shapiro. Predictably he placed Moses as number one. And Jesus was second. But what was surprising to The New Yorker editor was that Mr Shapiro listed Mary in his top 100. The New Yorker speaks. "We put the question to Mr Shapiro: Why the Virgin Mary? `She made the church user- friendly,' Mr Shapiro explained. `She made it into a softer place.'" Ironically enough, as Fulton Sheen might tell us, once again a non-Catholic was kind to our remarkable Mary. On the other hand, many of her own kinsfolk are very shabby to her. Very few of us I wager would quibble with the on-target insights of Mary's fellow Jew, Michael Shapiro. She surely has made the Church user-friendly and a softer place. As Elizabeth Johnson has put it, "Mary embodies the female face of God. She does this as a merciful mother who will not let one of her children be lost." We are all in her debt for that dimension of her character in the now and here. Many of us may even be more in her debt at the time of our death. But in fact Mr Shapiro is simply reminding us of an old concept. Artists of the medieval period often painted the Virgin with a voluminous cloak. Their inference was that all of us could get under it.

There, if necessary, we could hide and seek sanctuary and support from her. She would be our own back door into Heaven. I heard a preacher speak of a mother who goes each visiting day to spend time with her daughter in a psychiatric hospital. The daughter has been estranged from her for years. She refuses in the rudest way possible to meet with her mother. Still the next visiting day finds the mother back again hoping to speak with her child. The preacher wisely compared this mother to Mary who never gives up on anyone of us no matter how wretched we are. Sheen said whenever there is a decline in purity or the sanctity of marriage, there is a decline in devotion to Mary. He says it falls on us to revive that devotion by reviving it in our lives. Would anyone quarrel with his conclusion?

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Mary Holy Mother of God

Solemnity of Mary: Holy Mary, Mother of God

We say the prayer all the time, so much so that, like the Our Father, we can miss the meaning of each phrase. The prayer I am speaking of is the Hail Mary. I would like to reflect a bit on the prayer that we say and sing so often. But first, let's look at today's Gospel. The Gospel presents amazed people and shepherds and a reflective Mary. The people are amazed because the shepherds told them about the message they heard from the angels. Everything took place as the angels said. They would find an infant in a manger who would be the Savior of Israel. In our nativity scenes we all have shepherds. Whether you have expensive statues or not, if you look at the eyes of the shepherd statues, you'll see a look of amazement. We are very much like the shepherds. We are common, everyday working people who have been called by angels to witness the miracle of God's salvation in the form of Jesus Christ.

Like the shepherds, we are called to the manger. This is a grace. We have been called by God to witness His Presence on earth. And we are amazed. When life's troubles weigh on us, we still experience the reality of His Presence. We know that no matter what the future holds, positive or negative, we will not face it alone. The very names of the Lord that we read in scripture confirm this. He is called Emmanuel, which means God is with us. His name is Jesus, the name that means Yahweh saves us. The Almighty Creator of the Universe cares so much for each one of us that He guides us to a life full of meaning, to a life united to His own life, to salvation. We are amazed. In today's Gospel Mary reflects in her heart the events of Jesus' birth. She knows better than anyone that this child is both hers and God's. She hears from the shepherds their account of the angels directing them, singing to them, and she knows that the world has been changed due to the presence on earth of the child that was within her.

Mary has a unique role to play in mankind's salvation. She gives birth to the Savior. She stands beneath the Cross. She becomes our mother. Her role in the work of the Lord does not end with His birth, it just begins. It continues even now as we call upon her as the Mother of God and our mother. Let's look at this title, the title of today's solemnity, Mother of God. When we call Mary, Mother of God, we are acknowledging that there is only one Second Person of the Trinity. After the conception within Mary this Person has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. We can understand the distinction with the words what and who. What am I? I am a human being. Who am I? I am Joseph Anthony Pellegrino, Msgr. Joe. There is only one what in me, human being. But there are two whats to Jesus. He has two natures. The two natures of Jesus are human nature and divine nature. What is Jesus? He is divine.

He is human. Mary is the mother of the human nature, not the divine nature of God, therefore, she is not a deity. But there is only one who, one person of Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Mary is mother of Jesus, therefore she is Mother of God. Perhaps an analogy of this mystery would be to recognize that all mothers are mothers of the human being who is their child, the what, but with baptism their child received God's life and becomes both human and spiritual. Who is your child? He is yours, and he is God's. All the baptized are sons and daughters of God. Mothers, and fathers for that matter, are parents of the total children, including their spiritual existence. They are mothers and fathers not just of a human child, the what, but they are parents of people, the who. Your daughter, Sarah, your son, John, is a child of God. You are mothers and fathers of sons and daughters of God.

Over and over again we pray in the Hail Mary, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. When we do this we are asking her to use her unique relationship to God to call upon Him to care for us. That is why the Rosary is such a powerful prayer. In the rosary we are recognizing Mary's role in our salvation as the Mother of God and our mother. An angel announced to her, "Hail Mary, full of grace." Elizabeth proclaimed, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." and Joseph named the child, Jesus, pouring out on him the whole lineage of David. And we call upon her as Mother of God and our mother.

We ask her to pray for us now, and particularly, in that point of each of our lives when we will pass from this life to the next, the hour of our death. All of this is contained in the Hail Mary, that prayer we learned as children and which we recite over and over, particularly when we say the Rosary. Today, on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, I commend the Rosary to you. Say this prayer daily. Don't worry about the repetitions. Just say it. Don't worry about distractions. Just say it. Let Mary take your cares to her Son. Mary has a unique relationship with the Divine. She is the Mother of Jesus. She is the Mother of God.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Mary Holy Mother of God

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Mary Holy Mother of God

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Mary Holy Mother of God

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