Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mary, Mother of God

The Catholic preacher, Fr. John Corapi, once began a homily on the Blessed Virgin Mary asking the question: "If you could have created your own mother, would you not have made her perfect in every way?"

God chose Mary among all the women who ever lived to be the mother of his Son, Jesus. From the moment she was conceived, God kept her free from the stain of sin. He sustained her with his grace throughout her life and formed in her a heart open to his will. When the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she said "yes" to God's plan for her because God had been preparing her all along for the great mission she would undertake. She would be the Mother of God.

The Son of God did have the opportunity to create his own mother. And he made her perfect in every way.

When we call Mary the "Mother of God" it can be confusing for some. Some people take it to mean that Mary is greater than God or that God would not have existed without Mary the way we could not have existed without our mothers. But nothing could be further from the truth. Mary was a human being created by God just as all of us were. When we call Mary "Mother of God" we are not so much saying something about her but something about her child, Jesus.

Jesus is the Son of God. Because he is God, he is the Creator of all things and has always existed throughout eternity. It is this Son of God who is conceived in Mary's womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. This child born of the Virgin Mary is both fully God and fully human. Because Jesus is God and Mary is his mother, Mary can rightly be called the "Mother of God."

In the same homily, Father Corapi went on to say: "If Mary is good enough for Jesus, then she is good enough for me!"

When we call Mary, "Mother of God", we are also making an act of faith in who we are as baptized followers of Jesus. At our baptism we each became members of the Church and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, were made daughters and sons of God. This is what Saint Paul teaches us in today's second reading from the letter to the Galatians: "...God sent his Son, born of a that we might receive adoption as sons."

If by Jesus' death and resurrection we can dare to call ourselves sons and daughters of God, then Mary must also be our mother! God's plan for Mary did not end with Jesus' birth. Rather God in his mercy and generosity willed that Mary should also be the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all believers.

While he was dying on the cross, Jesus turned to his beloved disciple, Saint John and told him, "Behold your mother." It has always been understood that Jesus was not only entrusting his mother to the care of his disciple, but entrusting all believers to the care of his mother. And from her place in heaven, she continues to pray for all the faithful that we receive every possible grace from her Son. Just as we would turn to our own mothers in our time of need, we can turn to our heavenly mother, Mary, with confidence that she will bring our prayers to her Son for us.

The act of faith we make today, then, is that Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father and that Mary is his Mother. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit we received at our baptism and confirmation teaches us that we are also sons and daughters of God. If so, then Mary is also our mother.

It is traditional at the beginning of a new year to set goals and make resolutions. It is no coincidence that, as a Church, we dedicate this first day of the year to Mary, the Mother of God. Following her example, our firmest resolution for the coming months should be to seek out God's will for us and to put it in practice. As individuals and as a parish community, I would like all of us to consecrate this coming year to Mary, the Mother of God. Whatever it is we hope to accomplish, whatever it is we want to change in our lives, we can count on the Mother of Jesus to keep our prayers in her heart and to present them to her Son for us. If our resolutions are not in keeping with God's will, we may stick to them for a few weeks or months, but we will eventually fail. However, if we seek God's will with Mary to both inspire us and pray for us, we can rest assured that we can conquer any difficulty in the strength provided by her Son, Jesus.

So I would ask all of us to bring to mind those resolutions right now. In our hearts, let us offer them to Mary so that she may pray for us this year.

(painting by Carole Baker)

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