Friday, December 27, 2013

1/1/2014 – Mary, Mother of God – Luke 2:16-21, Numbers 6:22-27

       There are few feasts or solemnities in our Church that have the same readings each year, but we start the new year off with the same readings each year for the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.  It is wonderful for us as Catholics to ask Mary for her blessing and her prayers as we start off the new year of 2014.
     In the reading from the book of Numbers, we hear God give Aaron & his sons, the priests of Ancient Israel, a special blessing that they are to pass on to his people: that the Lord will bless them and keep them, to let his face shine down upon them and be gracious to them, to look upon them kindly and to give them peace.  I pray that we may feel this sense of blessing as we start off the new year, feeling that we are indeed the people of God, called to proclaim his kingdom to the world.
     From the time of Jesus' public ministry to the days of the early Church after his death & resurrection, there was much debate & discussion about Jesus' true identity, about his divinity and humanity.  The Council of Ephesus settled this matter in 431 as it declared that Jesus was a person with two natures, both human & divine.  The Council approached this discussion by declaring that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the “Theotokos,” the “God-bearer”. 
     That the Blessed Virgin Mary was central in affirming a truth about Jesus shouldn't surprise us, since she always points to her Son and leads us closer to him.  Because of Mary's divine maternity, she is intimately a part of her Son's union with all of humanity that comes about through his incarnation, through the Word of God made flesh.   By God's grace, Mary is not only the Mother of God, but our mother.   Like any true mother, she carries in her heart many things about us as her children, just as she pondered in her heart the things the shepherds told her about Jesus.  Through Mary's example of faithful discipleship and through her intercessory prayers, we learn from her how to become true believers in God's holy word, to have hope and love in God.  Mary's devotion as the Mother of God is not done through meaningless motions and piety, but in her love, obedience, faith, hope, and charity.
     In his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II concluded by quoting the Alma Redemptoris Mater antiphon that is traditionally prayed after night prayer from the first Sunday in Advent until the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.  In reflecting on this prayer, John Paul II states that the Church sees Mary maternally present and sharing in the many complicated problems which today beset the lives of individuals, families, and nations.   The Church sees Mary helping the faithful in the constant struggle between good and evil, to ensure that they "do not fall," or, if they do fall, that they are able to rise again.  May we pray together to Mary, the Mother of God, asking for her prayers, for her help and guidance:
Loving mother of the Redeemer,
You are the gate leading to heaven,

You are the star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet who strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners. AMEN.

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