The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
1 January 2018 At Saint Peter Church in Naples, FL
Number 6, 22-27 +Psalm 67 + Galatians 4: 4-7 + Luke 2, 16-21
Today while celebrating a new year, the Church celebrates the oldest of all Marian feasts. It is a feast uniquely appropriate to those of us concerned with new beginnings, with new resolutions, and renewed hopes. The Gospel we proclaim repeats what we heard on Christmas. It is important to remember that in this gospel the shepherds, considered to be the poor outsiders, are the first informed of Christ’s birth, and who first visit the infant. It is the outsider who bears the good news of what the angels have announced, that the Savior has been born. It is an outsider who helps Mary to deeply know her son. In Luke, Mary represents the ideal believer, for she hears the good news and ponders it in her heart, and fully responds to it. Her heart becomes the place of discovering Jesus and who he truly is. Mary’s life and the Church’s life is centered on that process of pondering who that child really is. In contemplating her son, Mary becomes the church reflecting on the Incarnation. This aspect of Mary’s motherhood is important for our new year, continuing this year, our journey of heart toward God.
All reflection calls for response, and Mary’s response to God should not be considered a choice between right and wrong, good or bad, or some sort of ethical or moral decision. Nor should our choices be only that. Mary gives us an example of what our choice as Christians really implies: that every choice we make reveals who we are. It is not simply what we do. In our choices, we act out of our self and reveal who we really are. For us, freedom of choice is not about choosing which film we will go to see, or what we will wear, or what we will own. It is about how we reveal and define ourselves on the journey to God.
Mary’s choice was not right or wrong, it came from who she was and knew herself to be as a daughter of Israel, a child of God. She is blessed of all women, and we are told in the great Blessing of Aaron in the today’s first reading that God will smile upon those he loves and who love him, that his face will shine upon them. And today, this New Year’s Day, we know that the face that smiles upon Mary as she holds him in her arms, presenting Him to His Father in the Temple, is that of her new-born Son Jesus. This is the face we long to see, the face of God made flesh.