Mary, Mother of God
(Num.6:22-27; Gal.4:4-7; Lk.2:16-21)
Happy New Year! Today we celebrate the life and mission of Mary, the Mother of God.
There’s an old Flemish hymn that says, ‘Love gave her a thousand names,’ and Mary certainly does have many names. [i] St John Chrysostom called her Mary, Help of Christians. To sailors she’s Stella Maris, ‘Star of the Sea’. In our parish she’s Our Lady of the Rosary and Queen of Peace. She is also the Queen of Saints.
But St Therese of Lisieux said that Mary is ‘more mother than queen’, so today we welcome her as Theotokos, the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus gave Mary this name in 431AD because she is Jesus’ mother, and Jesus is God himself.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Mary is equal to God. She is completely human, just like us. But she is closer to God than anyone in history. We know this from the miraculous way she became Jesus’ mother, and from the sinless and selfless way she lived her life.
Some people think Catholics worship Mary, but that’s simply not true. We only worship God. We do, however, venerate Mary as the Mother of God and as Jesus’ first disciple. When we venerate Mary, we honour her just as God honoured her. And when we honour Mary, we also honour God.
St Louis de Montfort said that whenever ‘we praise her, love her, honour her or give anything to her, it’s God who is praised, God who is loved and God who is glorified…’ [ii] Why? It’s because Mary owes her entire existence to God, and her whole life points to Jesus.
On the Cross, Jesus said to his disciple John, ‘Behold your mother’ (Jn.19:26-27). With these words he gave Mary to us all, and now she is our mother, too. And as our mother, she has a job to do: to bring all her children to Jesus. She does this by modelling for us how to live a life of faith and charity, and by calling us to penance and prayer.
Mary is our model of faith because when the angel Gabriel told her about God’s plan for her, she didn’t understand but still said ‘yes’. She trusted God, and her deep faith shows us how we, too, can journey into the unknown with Jesus.
Mary is also our model of charity because she willingly sacrificed everything to live a simple and humble life for God. And by giving her life to Jesus, she is helping God save the world.
Mary teaches us that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Right now, you and I are being asked to do exactly what Mary did – to bring Jesus into the world, but in our own way and in our own circumstances.
And finally, Mary calls us to live a life of penance and prayer. This is the message of Fatima, where Mary appeared to 3 children in 1917. In the Gospels, the word repentance means changing the way we live; it means turning away from sin and turning back to God.
Mary is urging us to change, and to pray well. Each time she appeared at Fatima, she told us all to pray the Rosary, especially for world peace. The Rosary, of course, is the deeply meaningful prayer that focuses on the life of Christ, and we know that it’s powerful.
In 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Everything within 1.5 kilometres was destroyed, except for one small wooden house – a presbytery, only 8 blocks from the centre of the blast. The 8 Jesuit priests who lived there not only survived, they barely received a scratch and weren’t even affected by radiation. Some 200 scientific studies couldn’t explain what had happened.
But one of the survivors, Father Hubert Schiffer, knew the answer. He said, ‘We survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that home’. [iii]
Some people think that Mary’s job ended 2,000 years ago, but that is not so. St. John Vianney once said, ‘Only after the Last Judgment will Mary get any rest, (because) from now until then, she is much too busy with her children.’
What, then, is Mary doing? She is trying to draw us all back to Jesus.
St Teresa of Calcutta once said, ‘If you ever feel distressed during your day, call upon Our Lady and just say this simple prayer: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’
‘I must admit that this prayer has never failed me,’ she said.
So, let’s all say this prayer together: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’
[i] Waugh, E.H. Dissonant Worlds: Roger Vandersteene Among the Cree, Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 1996:257. Also see http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/00/10/27/11/00001/turcotte.pdf
[ii] St Louis de Montfort, Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, n. 225.