January 1, 2015 – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Homily delivered at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace! (Numbers 6:22-27)
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Luke 2:16-21)
The Catholic Church honors Mary multiple times throughout the year. We do so again today with the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Catholics are often accused of being “Mary worshippers” – that we elevate her to what appears to some to be divine status; but that is not what the Church teaches us about Mary.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity.” (CCC 967)
We don’t worship Mary, we celebrate and aspire to her total submission to God’s will, her humble “Yes” to becoming the Mother of God. While her “Yes” is extraordinary in and of itself, there are two specifics of that “Yes” that elevate it even more.
First, the timing of the “Yes.” It is widely accepted by scholars that Mary was 13 or 14 years old when God sent the angel Gabriel to her.
Apparently, back in young Mary’s time, drama had not yet been invented. I have witnessed firsthand the dramatic world of teenage girls. Anyone who has ever been around young girls of that age knows that it is not the most agreeable or most unselfish time in their lives. The life of a thirteen-year-old girl is rarely focused on anything that does not revolve directly around her. With that comes resistance to any suggestions from the outside world, including parents and angels. Having helped raise two daughters myself, I can attest to that. (I used to have hair.)
A second feature of Mary’s “Yes” is its immediacy. She did not ask for some time to “sleep on it” or tell Gabriel that she’d get back to him. She did not ask lots of questions or demand qualifiers. Her response was simply, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.”
As the Church tells us, Mary was the model of faith and charity. She was a model of faith because she believed and accepted, even without fully understanding. After all, that’s what faith is. What allowed Mary to do that? Perhaps it was the same thing that allowed her to believe what the shepherds had to say in today’s Gospel.
She could not possibly have understood all that was being said about her newborn baby. Rather than reject what was being said, Luke writes: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
She was a model of charity because she sacrificed everything – specifically, control of her life – for the common good.
It is fitting that we honor Mary on January 1st each year, as we consider our New Years resolutions. My personal resolution for 2015 is the same one I have had the last several years: Give up control of my life to God. The fact that my resolution is the same again this year tells me I have a long way to go. It is an ongoing battle. I want to be able to say, “Be it done unto me according to Your word.” I want to be His servant, completely and without reservation; but I struggle to give up control.
What am I afraid of? Am I afraid that God won’t get it right? If so, that’s pretty arrogant. No, I am afraid because it leaves me vulnerable. How can I prepare for what’s coming if I don’t know what He has in mind for me? I lack trust. A 13-year-old girl can completely submit to God’s will, yet I am a coward.
Recently, I read the homily delivered by Pope Francis at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I discovered that perhaps I am approaching my New Year’s resolution from the wrong perspective. Rather than thinking of it in terms of giving up control, perhaps I should look at it as allowing God to love me. I should replace something I want but don’t need – control – with something I desperately want and need – God’s love.
Pope Francis said: How do I welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question is: Do I allow God to love me?
My revised New Year’s resolution for 2015: I will do my best to allow God to love me.
Rather than reject His will because I do not understand it, I need to learn from Mary’s example and reflect on it in my heart.
I need to allow what was described in today’s first reading. I need to allow the Lord to let his face shine upon me, and be gracious to me, for Him to look upon me kindly and give me peace.
Total submission to God’s will, turning control over to Him, is simply a matter of allowing Him to love us – a valuable lesson modeled by a drama-free 13-year old girl.