Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mary, Mother of God

In all of human history, what woman has witnessed as many significant events as did Mary, the mother of Jesus?
She received the message of the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Savior with joy. Showing a perfect love of neighbor, she rushed out to help her cousin Elizabeth when she became pregnant in her old age and was there when John the Baptist was born. At her own son’s birth, she saw angels drawing shepherds to the stable and a star leading wise men there from the east. At the temple in Jerusalem, the prophets Ana and Simeon foretold that Mary’s child would be great and that she would suffer along with Him. Together with Joseph, she fled to Egypt when they learned that Herod was after the child to kill him. When it was finally safe to return, she settled with Jesus and Joseph in Nazareth where she nurtured and cared for Him.

When the child grew to be a man, she was present at His first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana where He changed water into wine announcing the new covenant. As He traveled from town to town preaching the good news, she was never far away. And when He was condemned to death, she stood at the foot of the cross weeping alongside John, the beloved disciple. It was there that Jesus gave His mother to be our mother when He turned to John and proclaimed: “Behold your mother.” When He rose from the dead, she was at the empty tomb and no doubt knew in her heart that He was alive. She joined the apostles in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came down upon them on the feast of Pentecost. During those early years of the Church, she prayed and broke bread with those who came to know Jesus through the apostles’ preaching. There is no doubt that she would also instruct them in the mysteries of her Son whom she cradled in her arms.

No woman witnessed as much history as Mary, the mother of Jesus did. She did not always take an active role in the events that were unfolding before her. More often, she pondered them in her heart, as today’s gospel tells us, letting the mystery she was witnessing form her heart and her soul.

What other woman in human history had as lofty a title as that by which we celebrate Mary today, the Mother of God? Some women have been queens, prime ministers or presidents of corporations. Some women have even claimed to be goddesses. But none has claimed to be the Mother of God. Only Mary can claim such a distinction through the grace of God who called her to be the mother of His Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

When we call Mary, “The Mother of God”, we have to be sure that we understand exactly what we mean. We are not saying that Mary is greater than God. We are not saying that she existed before God as our mothers existed before we did. Mary was created by God just as we were. What we are saying is that the child she bore in her womb, the child she gave birth to, was the eternal Son of God. Jesus is and always has been God. Yet, to take on our human nature, He was born of a woman, as Saint Paul tells us in the second reading from the letter to the Galatians. To put it very simply, since Jesus was God and since Mary was His mother, she is  the Mother of God. So when we call Mary, “The Mother of God”, we are professing our faith in her child, Jesus, that He is God.

In many paintings and statues, Mary is often depicted with the moon at her feet. Just as the moon has no light of its own but reflects the light of the sun, so the glory that Mary has as Mother of God is a reflection of the glory of her Son. When we show honor to Mary, we are following the example of Jesus who also honored His mother, and we are showing honor to the One whose light she reflects. What son is not pleased when he is told how beautiful his mother is?  Just so, Jesus wants us to love and honor His mother for He has given her to us to be our mother as well.

So as people of faith, we begin every new year not just with parties and by making resolutions, but by reflecting on the glory of Jesus which shines so perfectly and beautifully from the face of Mary,  the Mother of God. With her we ponder the mystery that unfolds before us of a God who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us. Just as He has sent us His Son, He also sends us His Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity who, as Saint Paul tells us, makes us His sons and daughters. That Spirit is at work in us reminding us of our dignity as sons and daughters of God, giving us hope in the eternal joy that is our inheritance in heaven and making us holy.

Jesus, the Son of God, took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this continual unfolding of love, He offers that flesh to us in the mystery of the Eucharist so that we might be drawn ever deeper into His divine life. We are witnesses to this great love and power and are called to share it with others so that they can know the joy that we have. With the prayers of Mary who is the Mother of God and our mother to support us, we can do great things for Jesus.

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