As a Church, we have many beautiful titles to describe Our Lady. She is called the "Blessed Virgin Mary" because she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is called the "Ark of the Covenant" because the child she carried in her womb would be the fulfillment of all the promises God made to the people of Israel. We also call her "Gate of Heaven", "Star of the Sea" and "Comfort of the Afflicted", because she continues to intercede for us at the throne of her Son in heaven.
We begin every new year in a special way by remembering and celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary under one of her most ancient titles, that of "Mother of God." When we call her, "Mother of God", we are first of all making a statement of faith about who it was she conceived in her womb. That child who was named Jesus is the Son of God Most High. He is God himself who takes on our human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because that child is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, equal to God in majesty and power, we rightly call his mother Mary, the Mother of God.
This ancient and venerable title also tells us much about who the Blessed Virgin Mary is and the role she played in the salvation Christ brought to the world. Mary was not merely the vessel chosen by God for the birth of his Son. Rather, she was an active participant in the drama of salvation. Without her "yes" to the message of the angel Gabriel, the Son of God could not have been born. After his birth and throughout his ministry Mary is present at the wedding feast at Cana, at the foot of the cross and at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would descend upon the apostles giving birth to the Church. Mary is the first to believe in Jesus and the first to follow him. Saint Augustine wrote that before Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, she had already conceived him in her heart. And so, Mary, the mother and the disciple, rightfully has a central role in our salvation and is worthy to be venerated by us as an example of what it means to follow and believe in her Son, Jesus.
At the center of Mary's identity and mission is first and foremost that she is a mother. No other title better describes who she is and how she serves the plan of God. As followers of Christ, we can rightly claim her as our mother as well. Jesus said as much from the cross when he turned to Mary and entrusted his disciple John and us along with him to her with the words, "Woman, behold your son." Because she made it possible that Jesus could have life, and because he became the source of our life through his death and resurrection, we can point to Mary as our mother in faith. Furthermore, Saint Paul tells us in the second reading that in baptism we received the Holy Spirit who makes us sons and daughters of God together with Christ. That same Spirit who hovered over Mary so that she could conceive Jesus in her womb puts the very life and love of the Father into our hearts. Through baptism, Jesus, born of a woman, becomes our brother, God becomes our Father and so Mary is now our mother. Because of that, we can count on her to take our needs to her Son and to watch over us on our journey to heaven.
As we begin this new year, the most important thing for us to keep in mind is that we should follow Mary's example. Because of her faith, she brought Jesus into the world. It is now up to us in the power of the Holy Spirit to do the same. By the kindness we show to those in need, we are to make it known that Jesus still walks among us in the person of believers. By bringing food to the hungry, we are to make it known that God continues to feed his people. By standing with those who weep and are sorrowful, we are to make it known that Christ is always by the side of those who suffer. As Mary gave her life and her body over to God's plan of salvation, we must give our very selves over daily to the wonderful works the Father wants to accomplish in our lives and in our world.
Mary is the Mother of God. She is blessed above all women because she carried the Son of God in her womb. It was her incomparable joy to hold the baby Jesus in her arms, to look on his face and to contemplate the wonder of a God who loved us enough to come down from heaven and save us. She is our mother as well. Because she cares for us, she wants nothing else than that we turn to her Son to seek forgiveness for our sins, strength against temptation and the power to do good for the needy who cross our path.
The Son of God took on a human body in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He now gives that body to us in the form of bread and wine. Like the shepherds who made haste to see with their own eyes the Word made Flesh in the arms of Mary, let us leave this place proclaiming the mystery we have celebrated and rejoicing in God's goodness. Like Mary, let us carry this mystery in our hearts and ponder it so that we can bring Jesus into a world that longs to hear the glad tidings of God's love. Then God's face will shine upon us, and we will know a peace that can never be taken away.