TUESDAY HOMILY: Mary, Mother, Model and Master of Faith
The Church has us begin the civil year with Mary for a reason. The Church sets Mary before us today because we, like her, need faith to journey into the unknown and her faith can inspire us.
No matter how many times we will exchange with others the words, "Happy New Year," none of us has any idea what the new year will bring, whether it will bring happiness or loss, great success or failure, prosperity or poverty, health or sickness, peace of war.
As we venture into the unknown, the Church give us, on this New Year's Day, a feast in honor of Mary, the Mother of God because our Blessed Mother shows us how to live this year in a way in which, no matter what occurs to us, it will be a truly blessed one.
St. Paul writes in his beautiful letter to the Romans, "Neither death, nor life, . nor present things, nor future things, . nor anything under all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39), and the Blessed Virgin Mary shows us how to unite whatever happens to us to God and to his saving plan.
It's important for all of us in this Year of Faith to learn from Mary how to live by faith, how to entrust everything with confidence to God, no matter how humanly propitious and adverse.
Mary is a unique icon of faith. While still in her teens, Mary was asked by God to venture into an unknown future, filled with suffering, the purpose and end of which she could not possibly understand in advance. We think of the angel's message to Mary - that she was to be the mother of God's Son -as something wonderful.
To Mary, however, it meant being an unmarried mother in a little village, where everyone would talk. To her it meant a possible rejected from St. Joseph. How could he understand that she was impregnated miraculously and had never been unfaithful to him or to God? It likely meant lots of questions from her parents Joachim and Anne and so many others. But she said "yes" to God with courage regardless.
And that was just the beginning.
There was suffering and poverty at his birth in a stable. There was great confusion when he was presented in the temple and Simeon prophesied that he would be the cause for the ruin and resurrection of many in Israel, a sign to be contradicted, and that her own heart a sword would pierce. There was great danger in their escape to Egypt when Herod sought to murder him. There would be great pain when the people of Nazareth would try to kill her Son, throwing him off the cliff on which Nazareth was built. There was indescribable sorrow when she would witness her Son die a criminal's death on Calvary.
Did she understand everything that was happening? The answer is a clear and emphatic no. In the Gospel for Mass on Sunday's Feast of the Holy Family, when Mary and. Joseph found Jesus in the temple after three days of a frantic search and Jesus said, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house," St. Luke tells us very clearly that Mary "did not understand Jesus' words. Even though she didn't foresee these events or even understand them when they occurred, however, she responded to them with faith.
The Church sets Mary before us today because we, like her, need faith to journey into the unknown and her faith can inspire us.
But we have to ponder more deeply how it is that she lived by faith. Today in the Gospel of the visit of the Shepherds to Bethlehem, after Mary had heard all that they had told her about what the angels had said to them, St. Luke tells us that she kept all of these things, reflecting on them in her heart. We heard the same words on the Feast of the Holy Family, that after finding Jesus the temple, his mother "kept all of these things in her heart." It's a very important expression of how her faith worked, and how we're called to live by faith in this New Year and Year of Faith.
In his 2008 apostolic exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict said that, "ever attentive to God's word, [Mary] lives completely attuned to that word; she treasures in her heart the events of her Son, piecing them together as if in a single mosaic."
That's a very important expression that renders into English what the Greek used by St. Luke conveyed in the expression "kept all these things in her heart." Mary pieced all of the events of her life, including the great challenges, into a much larger mosaic, in a masterpiece puzzle God was making in her. That's what she did in her Magnificat (Lk 1: 46-55), interweaving so many threads from the Old Testament and applying them all to her own circumstances.
That's what the Jews would often do, as we see in Psalm 136, seeing how all God's former actions are sings of how "his love endures forever," something that helps us to remember his love when various ...
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