Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Num 6:22-27 + Gal 4:4-7 + Luke 2:16-21
January 1, 2017
“…God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law….”
2017 will see the celebration by many of our separated brethren of the historic start of Protestantism. On October 31, 1517 the Augustinian priest Martin Luther publicly set forth questions he wanted debated within the Church. Following this event, thousands of Protestant denominations emerged that today teach and practice contrary and even contradictory beliefs.How, then, should Catholics observe this 500th anniversary? Given that Protestant leaders divorced themselves and their followers from Holy Mother Church, it’s hard to consider “celebrating” such an anniversary. We’d be concerned about anyone in our circle of friends who celebrated the anniversary of his divorce.
Perhaps a simpler term such as “commemoration” would serve better. Regardless, the further question exists of how to commemorate this anniversary: what should we do to commemorate this historic event?
Blessed John Henry Newman stated that “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”. This suggests one answer to the question of how to commemorate the anniversary of Protestantism’s start. We need to study thoroughly the history of the sixteenth century, if not also the centuries leading up to it. We need to recognize the scandals within the Catholic Church which Protestant leaders faced. We need also to understand the authentic Catholic teachings which Protestant leaders distorted into heresies.
Most of all, we need to study, appreciate, and imitate the efforts of those saints living during the sixteenth century, who took a radically different approach than the Protestant leaders. Instead of divorcing themselves and their followers from Holy Mother Church, these saints—such as Teresa of Avila, Peter Canisius, and John of the Cross—chose to reform the Church and advance her mission from within.
On this first day of the calendar year—which also is the Eighth Day of the Christmas Season—the Church in her Sacred Liturgy honors Mary as the Mother of God. Less formally, the Church also observes January first as a “World Day of Peace”. As each disciple of Jesus begins another year in this world that’s torn by warfare, ideologies and self-promotion, Our Blessed Mother helps us maintain a proper focus.
She who is the first and best disciple of Jesus strengthens us by her intercession not only to live our particular vocations, but also to work and pray for the reunion of all Christians. It would be fitting throughout this year of 2017 to petition God along these lines: “For the reunion of all Christians, that under the care of the Pope, the Mystical Body of Christ may be one in creed, prayer, and good works.”
At the Last Supper Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” When Mary says to us, “Do whatever He tells you”, she wants us to be attentive to the ways in which Jesus moves us to foster true peace. True peace is founded on the truth, and on charity. With the truth and charity of the Faith that’s been entrusted to Christ’s Church, we can make this year a year of greater unity among Christians, and among all the peoples of our world.