Homily for January 1 – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Think about that for a moment: we call Mary the “Mother of God”. For a monotheistic religion which believes that God had no beginning and is the Creator of the world and everything in it, it sounds like a contradiction to say that God has a mother. Sometimes non-Catholics think that we are elevating Mary to the status of divinity by giving her this title.
However, that’s not what we mean. When this title was officially sanctioned back in the year 431AD at the Council of Ephesus, it was more a statement about who Christ is than about who Mary is. No one disputed that Mary gave birth to Jesus. The point that the Council wanted to make was that Jesus is truly God Incarnate, the second person of the Trinity, who, without ceasing to be God, also became a man at a specific moment in history in the womb of Mary. Jesus was inseparably God and a human being, one Person with two ways of being. Hence, given that Mary is beyond a doubt the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God, Mary is thus the mother of God, according to his human birth.
Although this doctrine is initially more about Christ than Mary, it obviously has great importance for our understanding of Mary as well. She literally bore God in her womb, suckled Him at her breasts, and carried Him in her arms. She had the most intimate relationship with God that is humanly possible.
This is the root of all the other special gifts she received from God. In order for her to be a worthy vessel for such a treasure, God preserved her from any stain of sin right from the beginning of her existence – a gift we call the Immaculate Conception. Because she maintained her purity of soul and her spiritual unity with her Son, accompanying Him from the cradle to the tomb and to the Resurrection, she was also given the gift of being taken body and soul into heaven, which we celebrate at the Feast of the Assumption.
This also means that she has a special relationship with us. We become united to Christ in various ways, members of His spiritual Body, through Baptism and the other sacraments. Since Mary is the mother of Christ, she is also our mother. We turn to her in our needs and ask her to intercede for us, not because God won’t listen to us too, but because every good son gives special consideration to his mother’s requests.
We have a special prayer intention which we entrust to Mary on this solemnity. The Church considers today the “world day for peace”. In his message for this celebration at the beginning of the year 2012, Pope Benedict invites us to work especially to help young people be agents of peace. That means helping them to know the truth about themselves and about the world, and to make a responsible use of their freedom to transform the world. Only with God’s help can we hope to bring about a society of love, justice, and peace. This is the prayer intention we bring to Mary today. I’d like to close with an excerpt from the last paragraph of Pope Benedict’s message:
“[P]eace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. […] [L]et us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of “educating young people in justice and peace”.
You may also enjoy this other post: A quick thought on Mariology