28 January, 2017

Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God


Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21
‘When the appointed time came, 
God sent his Son, born of a woman’ Galatians 4:4
Papyrus with the prayer 'Sub tuum praesidium'
Last Sunday we began to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ with a feast that in the Church’s calendar lasts for eight days. And today, on the last day of this Octave, we honour the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way because she ushered the Son of God into the world.

The Christmas story we continue to read this morning in our gospel contains a beautiful insight in Mary’s motherhood; we read, ‘As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.’ (Luke 2:19) Here Mary’s heart is truly revealed as a mother’s heart. She is, in this, like any other mother. She has nurtured her child for nine months, waiting, and longing to finally greet him; and now, as Jesus lays in the manger surrounded by people wanting to see him, she is lost in contemplation of her little, miracle boy. What mother, (and indeed, what parent) does not treasure all the good things she hears about her child? And what mother does not look at her now-born baby wandering about what kind of person they will turn out to be?

Yet, by this stage in the gospel story Mary has even more things to ponder and to treasure in her motherly heart. She knows that in some respects her beautiful child is unlike any other child. For starters, his birth was foretold by an angel; then, though a virgin, she conceived her child through the Holy Spirit; and while in the first few days of pregnancy, her cousin Elizabeth greeted her as the ‘Mother of the Lord’ (Cf. Luke 1:43). As Mary places Jesus in a lowly manger, angels come to visit their Lord, and a star begins to shine over the stable… Her extra-ordinary child is the Son of God, God who enters history to live alongside humanity, and in this Mary is unlike any other mother. She is the one chosen by the Father to be the all-holy and pure mother of his only begotten Son, and to bring forth his Son for a waiting world at the appointed time. In short Mary has become the Mother of God.

However, many people, including self-professed Christians, shy away from calling Mary the Mother of God. And in their stubbornness they involuntarily reduce her child no more than a moral teacher who was born in poverty, lived a hard life, and taught people nice things about being kind to one-another. As a remedy to this, our belief in Mary must remain a hallmark of sound Christian faith; because to honour the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of God means also to worship her Son as God, living and true, made flesh for our salvation.

I would like to conclude this reflection with the oldest surviving prayer addressed to Mary (Sub tuum praesidium or Under your protection) which dates back to AD 250, a time before the great divisions among Christians we know today.
Under your protection, we seek our refuge,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions in our needs,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.

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