Today we celebrate a great feast of the Church, the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It is the biggest of the Marian feasts, and its mystery is derived from the mystery of the Incarnation, that God willed to become man, and more specifically, as the second reading said, that He willed to be “born of a woman.” (Gal 4:4). By choosing to be born of Mary, God exalted her in a very specific way.
Sometimes I ask young children, “Do you imagine Jesus being your age? Can you picture Jesus at seven years old?” They just give me the gaze under blinking eyes. “Oh yes!” I tell them, “Jesus was once your age. He had to make his bed, eat his healthy breakfast and go to school just like you.” Mary had an essential role in the life of Jesus; It was she who taught Jesus to pray the Psalms, and she who guided him to “grow in wisdom, age, and favor before God” (Lk 2:52); and, since Jesus had no earthly father, he must have had even a strong physical resemblance to his mother.
But Mary is not just another woman of the New Testament, is she? Because she was the one who was chosen to give birth to the Son of God, she has been endowed with a special kind of dignity, It is Elizabeth who says, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me?” (Lk 1:43) We see this exaltation of Mary throughout the Scripture, in both Testaments.
In the first centuries of Christianity, the fathers of the Church spent a great deal of time reflecting on the foundational mysteries of our faith: the Eucharist, the Church, and, of course, Jesus and his mother Mary. One of their central questions went something like this: “Ok, so where in the Bible does it say that Jesus is God?” They were a wrestling with these issues because in fact there is no explicit statement in the Bible which says that Jesus is God. “Sure,” the Fathers of the Church must have been thinking, “We can see that the Bible says that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, that he is Elijah and the One-Who-is-to-Come, but where does it say that he is God?” What they came to understand was that, even though it is not explicitly stated in the Bible, Jesus is God; for the actions and words of Jesus are those of God; for only God can forgive sins and Jesus forgives sins; only God can save and Jesus offers salvation.
After concluding, through Scripture, that “Jesus is God,” they asked themselves another question, “But, isn’t Jesus man? We know that he looks like a man, and that he speaks like a man, and that he was born and died like a man; but was he really a man? “What if—they asked themselves— he is actually God disguised as a human being?” This lead them to some puzzling questions: That would mean that the life of Jesus was all an illusion, a charade performed by God; and salvation, reconciliation with the Father, was a hoax. Eventually they came to the conclusion that yes, Jesus also is a real man: one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. After they had settled these issues, they came back to the question of Mary. Having resolved that Jesus was God, it followed that His mother is the mother of God himself. This was one of the greatest revelations in early Christianity. Mary was formally recognized as the Mother of God in the year 431 a.C., at the Council of Ephesus, where it was declared that she was not merely the bearer of the Messiah, Christotokos, but the bearer of God, Theotokos.
Mary is exalted among all the saints because she is the shortest path to Christ. We would be mistaken to believe that we adore Mary—our knees only bend to Christ, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We do venerate her above all the saints and intercessors, as Scripture does. I think God wanted it to be this way so that we could see the tenderness of his divine love through a woman. Mary is the embodiment of the compassionate, caring, motherly love of God. Mary was present throughout the life of from the moment of his birth; Mary was present in the miracles; she received the Spirit at Pentecost; and she was one of the few with enough courage to be there at her Son’s death on the cross. Nobody knows the son better than the mother. If we want to get to know a child—their favorite foods, their hobbies, their closest friends—we only have to ask the mother. The mother knows the heart of the son, and Mary is not the exception this rule. It is through the incredible vocation of motherhood that God entered the world.
As Mary was present throughout the life of Jesus, so is she also invested in our life, in our salvation. The last words of Christ dying on the cross to John and his Mother were, “Woman, behold your son; disciple, (…) behold, your mother” (Lk 19:26-28). Mary loves and gives birth to her Son in each and every one of us (Origen). Mary expresses the tenderness of the love of the Father; she is also quite active in our spirit, determined in us becoming like her Son, Christ-like in every way.
As we start our New Year resolutions, as we begin our diets, and start bettering ourselves at our jobs, our relationships, and our lives, let us also consider especially our spiritual lives. If we want to live a well-rounded life, then our spiritual life must be the foundation. Mary can help us to do this; she can guide our efforts to her Son. Mary likes to hide; she doesn’t stay with the glory herself; she always takes us to Christ redirecting all focus and attention to her Son. Being the Mother of God, makes her the mother of Wisdom and Peace, that wisdom and peace that you and I sometimes so long for.
There are many ways in which we can approach Mary. In the Eucharist, Mary takes us to her son, she points us to him. Perhaps today at the moment of Offertory, we can bring up all our resolutions for the year, all the things we value and love in our life, and place them on the altar—health, work, life, our relationships, all the things we are grateful for, our sufferings and all the things that burden us—place them on the altar with Mary. Another great way to approach Mary is by the Holy Rosary. To pray the Rosary is to meditate on Scripture, on the mysteries of the life of Christ, his life, passion, death and resurrection, are all reflected in the Rosary.
The Gospel says that, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Mary is a true example of how we are to live the life of Christ; like Mary, we must reflect on the mysteries of Christ in our own lives and our own hearts. In this spirit, perhaps one of our resolutions in the New Year could be to consult more with the Father: to speak to God in prayer, to ask the Lord for counsel on small and important decisions, and to ponder and meditate the mysteries of Christ in our heart. In thanksgiving for one more year of life, and for the gift of faith in our lives, we ask Mary to show us how to find Christ, to love Christ, and to give Christ to others.
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