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Mary, Mother of God - January 1, 2018

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          It is wonderful to begin another new year with Mass as we honor Mary, Mother of God. In the first chapter of Luke, the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that by the Holy Spirit she will conceive a child who will be called Holy, the Son of God. (Luke1: 36) If you haven’t seen the now Bishop Barron’s presentation about Mary from his Catholicism series, I encourage you to.  It is very precise, interesting and so succinctly explains what we believe about Mary as the Mother of God.  He shares information about the Council of Ephesus in 431 when church leaders worked through much tribulation to come to the doctrine that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.  Part of that doctrine came from what the faithful believed of Mary – she was called the Mother of God , Theotokus – from the first century, because she was the mother of the Son of God, Jesus, who is the Word of God made flesh.      

          So, we gather tonight to honor and venerate Jesus’ mother, the mother of the Church, and our Mother.  Our scriptures give us more information about how she lived as a model disciple. The Gospel picks up where the Gospel Christmas Eve ended.  The Shepherds go in haste to see Mary, Joseph and the newborn Messiah.   Luke tells us that “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.”  Let’s review briefly Mary’s life – her yes to God teaches us how to have a servant’s heart.  Her faith and humility is praised by the Angel Gabriel who announces that she is highly favored by God.  God through his messenger in a dream inspires Joseph time and time again, not only to take Mary as his wife and to take Jesus as his son, but to take them to Egypt to flee Herod’s wrath and then back to Nazareth.  Mary is a woman of charity as she hastens to meet Elizabeth and help her with her pregnancy of John the Baptist.  Tonight we learn the importance of treasuring good news and reflecting on God’s grace in our journey throughout our lives.  As Mary was God’s blessing for Jesus, she in turn, is a blessing for us.  She pondered and reflected on the challenges she faced as a wife and mother, ultimately watching her beloved son die on the cross.

          If we are making New Year’s Resolutions, we do well to follow Mary’s example.  She said yes to God in complete faith.  Mary’s life was filled with suffering.  She inspires us by the way she looked for meaning in suffering and more importantly for God’s presence and Divine assistance.  No long after Jesus was born, they fled to Egypt to survive the massacre of the innocents by King Herod.  Her reflection led her to action, and she obeyed the Holy Spirit and did God’s will.          Do we not live lives full of trials and challenges?  When we turn to God rather away from him, or just show up if that is all that we can do, then He can slowly work to heal our wounds and give us strength in our toughest times.  When we turn away from Him and to other sinful and empty sources to ease our pain, the wound does not heal, but is only masked for a short time, and grows much deeper.

          Finally, who else is featured in today’s Gospel?  The Shepherds.  Their hearts went from terrible fear at the sight of Angels to motivation in seeking out the Christ-child to finding him, sharing the good news they heard with Joseph and Mary, and then leaving praising God and tell of Jesus’ birth.  That is our work.  It is interesting that God’s first revelation to humanity other than Joseph and Mary were to those on the bottom rung of the social ladder – despised and dirty shepherds.  None of us is too small, too insignificant, too sinful, too dirty to know God’s love for us in his Son Jesus.  When we open our hearts to that love and share it, it grows as does the light of Christ in a world so badly in need of it!