Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Num 6:22-27 + Gal 4:4-7 + Lk 2:16-21
January 1, 2020
When eight days were completed for His circumcision, He was named Jesus, the Name given Him by the angel….
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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Solemnity (4:55)
click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Solemnity
click HERE to read the homily from Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland for this Solemnity
click HERE to watch the homily for this Solemnity from the cathedral in Phoenix, Ariz. (16:24)
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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 homily for this Solemnity
click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2011 homily for this Solemnity
click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2002 homily for this Solemnity
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In the year of Our Lord 431, the bishops of the Church gave glory to God by giving honor to Mary, pronouncing her to be “the Mother of God”. In that year, the third world-wide—or ecumenical—council of the Church took place in the city of Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey.
According to tradition, Ephesus is where the Blessed Virgin Mary lived the last years of her earthly life under the care of St. John, the Beloved Disciple. So it’s very fitting that the Council of Ephesus was the setting for the Church to proclaim Mary to be “the Mother of God”.
The bishops gathered in Ephesus to contend with the heresy being taught by the archbishop of Constantinople. He was falsely teaching that the child who was born to Mary in Bethlehem was actually two separate persons: the human Jesus and the divine Christ. Mary, according to that faulty logic, would certainly be the mother of the human Jesus, but could not be called the mother of anyone who is divine.
Fortunately, that way of thinking was condemned by the Council of Ephesus. The teaching of the Church, the bishops proclaimed, is that there is only one person in Jesus Christ, and that if Mary is the mother of Jesus—Jesus Christ who is fully God and fully man—then she can be honored as the Mother of God, as we do especially on this day, the eighth day of Christmas.
Still, even if we know all this—if we know in our heads that we can call Mary the Mother of God—why should we? Why is this feast so important that we celebrate it as a holy day of obligation?
Keep in mind that whenever Holy Mother Church obliges us to do something, she’s acting like any good mother. What she does is for our sake, not hers. At the heart of this great mystery is the truth that Mary is the “Mother of God”. This truth teaches us something about Jesus, about us, and about her.
What does the title “Mother of God” say about Jesus? The mystery that the Council of Ephesus reflected on is not principally that Mary is the Mother of God, but rather, that this baby whom we see lying in the manger is in truth God.
The Christmas hymn asks “What child is this?” and our answer is that “this, this is Christ the King!” This helpless infant is the same God who creates the stars of the heavens. This helpless infant is the same God who destroys our sins on the Cross. In Jesus, God and man are united. The infinite and the finite wed. Because of this wedding, our lives on this earth, naturally destined to last maybe seventy or eighty years, can be lived forever in Heaven.
In your imagination, picture today’s Gospel Reading. You see the infant Jesus in the manger, with His mother on the ground next to Him. Saint Joseph keeps watch over them. The Holy Family had already made the perilous journey to Bethlehem. When they had arrived, they had found themselves rejected by everyone whom they asked for shelter.
Later, there were angels and shepherds and kings from the east praising the newborn child. What a strange turn of events: from rejection to adoration! It’s no wonder that as Mary rested in the hay, she pondered these things in her heart. The Holy Family experienced complete rejection and utter acceptance because of the same person.
Mary was beginning to see how the world treats people. You remain the same person throughout your life, but because of changing circumstances, others react very differently toward you.
Mary realized that this was going to be the pattern throughout her son’s life: acceptance or rejection, based merely upon the attitudes of others and the circumstances of life. She could see, even at such a young age, that if others were given the chance to witness miracles—angels singing in the sky, water turning to wine, or a blind man regaining his sight—they would very likely praise her son.
However, if following Jesus meant watching him being turned out of the synagogue in Galilee where He had grown up, or being mocked by the scribes and Pharisees for trying to teach them something new about God, or being whipped and crowned with thorns after being condemned to a traitor’s death—what would people say about her son then?
Many of us are going to make resolutions for the new year. How successful will we be? For most of us, the new year won’t be much different than the last. If we truly want to change, it will take the grace of God. The grace of God is what made Mary the “Mother of God”, and so also our Mother. Ask her intercession before her divine Son each day of this new year.