Rogation Days and the Original Novena

Bulletin Letter, Easter Sunday 6A

If you missed the Major Rogation on April 25, you’ll have a few more chances this week on the Minor Rogation Days, which are observed on the three days before Ascension Thursday (which is transferred to the following Sunday in most places). Rogation Days are named for the Latin verb rogare, “to ask,” and are observed with solemn procession while singing the Litany of Saints, the Penitential Psalms, and several other prayers for God’s blessings and deliverance from evil. Fasting, abstaining from meat, and other forms of penance are also encouraged on these days.

The Major Rogation, on April 25 each year, is likely the earliest one observed, probably to counteract and replace the pagan Roman festival of Robigalia, held on the same date with public games and the sacrifice of a dog to the false god Robigus for the protection of grain fields from disease. Rogation Days retain this agricultural connection, and besides the Litany and procession, the blessing of fields and flocks became customary in many places on these days. The Minor Rogations (held on the three days leading up to Ascension Thursday) were introduced around the year 470 in France by St. Mamertus, bishop of Vienne, and observance spread out from there, eventually extending to the whole Church. Both the Major and Minor Rogations came to be observed in the same ways.

We’ll plan to have processions like we did on April 25, from the church to the cemetery and back. In Hoven on Monday and Tuesday (May 18 and 19), just after the Mass at 5:15 pm, the procession should start close to 5:50 pm. In Bowdle on Wednesday, May 20, we’ll start the procession at 7:00 pm. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate. Since May is the month of Mary, we’ll also be asking for her intercession in a special way.

This week also includes the start of the Original Novena. A novena is a prayer said on nine consecutive days, often concluding on the Vigil of a particular feast day. The Original Novena refers to the nine days between Ascension Thursday and the great Solemnity of Pentecost, during which the Apostles and disciples were gathered together in prayer with the Blessed Mother in the upper room, preparing and beseeching God for the great Gift of the Holy Spirit. Starting on Friday and concluding on the Saturday Vigil of Pentecost, a novena for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is fittingly prayed. Using a keyword search, it’s easy enough to find this novena online, including on the EWTN website. Come, Holy Spirit!

Permission to Grieve

Homily, Funeral of Travis, 39

First, on behalf of St. Anthony Parish, I want to extend to all the family and friends of Travis our heartfelt condolences and a promise to continue to pray for the repose of his soul and that those who mourn his loss would find consolation in God. Over this past week or since I received the news, I’ve been wondering what I should say, or trying to imagine what this must be like especially for N. (wife) and N. (son), what I would most be needing to hear. Of course I can’t imagine what this must be like for you, or for Travis’s sisters or parents, or even for his friends. Travis was one of a kind, and so the grief of losing him is particular to each one of you. But what I most want to convey to you this morning and what I think is most important for us to hear in the face of tragedy is that it’s okay to be sad. It’s normal. It’s okay to be angry. It’s normal in this situation. It’s not fair to have to bury a son, a brother, a husband, a dad, when he’s only 39 years old. It’s not fair. It’s okay to be negative about this.

I think too often we feel pressured to move too quickly to try and put a positive spin on everything. We almost don’t even give ourselves permission or time to really grieve. Certain cultures have more established customs at observing formal times of mourning. In the Bible, it’s usually around 30 days that they observe this time of grieving after experiencing a significant loss. Sometimes the whole nation would be in mourning, like after the death of Moses. They might wear black or dark colors, or wear their hair differently, even as visible signs to the people around them that they’ve lost someone very dear to them.

Even the Church has shied away from some of these customs more recently, and not always helpfully. Black vestments used to be standard at funerals, expressing solidarity with those who are still coming to grips with a significant loss and not just glossing over that reality. Now we often see white vestments at funerals, meant to point us to the Resurrection of Jesus, but we know the reality is, it might take more than three days, more than thirty days, to start to experience something of the Resurrection after such a loss. And that’s okay. Give yourself permission to really grieve.

And when we pray, give to God whatever is on your heart. God wants you. He doesn’t want what you think you’re supposed to be. He wants you. When you’re sad, He wants to hear about it. When you’re angry, express that to God. Too often when we go to pray, I think we have this feeling like we just have to be thankful and pretend that everything’s great when we talk to God, but that’s not actually what we find in the Bible. Job spends a lot of his time complaining to God and wrestling with why tragedies happen to those who don’t deserve it. Jeremiah and his Book of Lamentations are definitely not bubbling over with positivity. And of the 150 Psalms, the Prayerbook of the Bible, over 40 % of the Psalms could be characterized as Psalms of Complaint. I hope you feel comfortable complaining to God because He wants to hear from you even when that’s all that’s in our heart to give Him. Or if all that we can manage is to sit with God in silence.

The other issue I’d like to address is that an accident is just that: an accident. This wasn’t part of anybody’s plan. This wasn’t anybody’s fault. This wasn’t anything that God wanted to happen. It’s tragic. It doesn’t make sense. But God is with you through this. And He will give you what you need to carry on. I’ve always loved depictions of the Pieta. We have one right here on the left side of the church. Just to contemplate everything that was in the heart of Mary in those moments, to see her beloved Son and Lord cut down in the prime of His life. Please ask our Mother Mary to draw close to you during this time. Trust that she knows something of what you’re experiencing right now. And trust that God will give you the strength to bear it, even as He gave Mary every grace in suffering. And entrust Travis, your son, your brother, your husband, your dad, your friend, into her gentle arms.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Co-Redemptrix

Bulletin Letter, Epiphany

Every new year starts with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. We often think of this title as a great honor for the Blessed Mother, but it has more to do with being clear about who Jesus is. Mary, being the Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God because Jesus is God. Jesus is the eternal Son of God and Second Person of the Holy Trinity who at the time of the Annunciation joined to Himself a perfect human nature in the womb of Mary. This was declared dogmatically at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Since then, three other dogmas about Mary have been defined: her Perpetual Virginity, her Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption—body and soul—into heaven at the end of her earthly life.

Another title of the Blessed Virgin that has been the subject of controversy, even recently, and often not well-understood is “Co-Redemptrix.” The word itself is simply the feminine form of the word ‘redeemer’ with the added prefix co- which means ‘with.’ This title has often been misunderstood to imply equality between Mary and Jesus in the work of redemption, but the prefix co- does not imply equality. In fact, it often implies subordination. The Church refers to priests as coworkers or collaborators with the bishops, but bishops are obviously of a higher rank in the Church’s hierarchy. A copilot would be another example: one who assists but is not in command of an airplane.

What is actually meant by Co-Redemptrix is that Mary cooperated and participated in a unique, powerful, and subordinate way in the supreme and irreplaceable work of redemption wrought by Jesus, her Divine Son. As only a mother could, she suffered with Him along His way of the Cross, her own heart breaking as she witnessed her Son, her own flesh and blood, scourged and torn and crucified for our salvation. And she offered her sufferings to God, united to those of Jesus, for the sake of the Church.

Even St. Paul would tell the Colossians, “I rejoice now in my sufferings for you, and I fill up what is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for the sake of His Body, which is the Church” (1:24). There is no value lacking in the afflictions of Christ. What is lacking is the conformity of our flesh to Christ’s Passion. “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow” your Lord and Teacher, crucified for our salvation. Our Blessed Mother as Co-Redemptrix shows us how in a preeminent way. St. Paul and every Apostle and disciple of Christ strove to do the same.

Son of God and Son of Mary

Homily, Mother of God

As I was growing up, math always came easily to me. In fact, all of my siblings and I were good at math when we were in school. To give you some idea, all six of my brothers studied engineering of one kind or another, and my oldest sister is a high school math teacher, so I think it was something genetic that allowed us all to excel in mathematics. And I believe it was in Math class that I first heard about the transitive property or transitive relations. Now I realize that many people struggle with math, and hearing something like ‘transitive property’ might drudge up painful memories or just a general sense of confusion or hopelessness, and it’s probably still a little early after a late night of New Year’s parties to be talking about logic, but stay with me, and I’ll try to illustrate what I’m saying with simple examples.

Let’s use Star Wars as our first example. There’s a new movie out but in one of the original trilogy, we find out that Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker. We also know that Luke Skywalker is a jedi. Therefore, Darth Vader is the father of a jedi. Now for those who aren’t as familiar with Star Wars, let’s take another example. As I mentioned before, my brothers are engineers, and my mother is also the mother of my brothers. Therefore, my mother is the mother of engineers. Make sense? That’s the transitive property at work. We use it all the time, without even thinking about it. We substitute ‘engineers’ in one sentence for ‘brothers’ in another statement, because we know that these two terms refer to the same individuals, that the brothers are engineers, so the mother has the same relationship to both.

Now the Solemnity that we celebrate today honors Mary with the title ‘Mother of God,’ but it also safeguards what we believe about Jesus Christ. This is why it’s always been difficult for me to understand why so many non-Catholics have a problem with this title of the Blessed Mother. If we believe Jesus is God, the Son of God, with the same divinity as God the Father and the Holy Spirit, if we believe that Jesus was truly God even at the time of his birth, and if Mary is the Mother of Jesus, then, quite logically, Mary is the Mother of God.

Of course, we know that the divinity of Christ does not originate in Mary the way that His humanity does. Mary doesn’t give birth to God the Father. And God the Son—as God—has His origin from the Father from all eternity, before time began and before Mary even existed. But calling Mary the Mother of God reminds us that the Incarnation is real. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was really born in time and history from a human mother for our salvation. And the Baby that Mary gave birth to and that we adore in the manger scene did not become the Son of God at some later time, but already, from the moment of His conception in Mary’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was the Son of God in human Flesh. And the Incarnation is so real that whatever can be said of Jesus in His humanity can also be said of the Son of God, because ‘Jesus’ and ‘Son of God’ refer to the very same Divine Person, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. So Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is also called Mother of God because Jesus is God.

This title of Mary is also Scriptural, because we find in Luke 1:43 at the Visitation, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth asks, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The Mother of my Lord. Who is Elizabeth calling “my Lord” if not the Lord of all, the God of Israel, believing that the Messiah would somehow be identical with God Himself, as we hear from St. Paul in the second reading today, that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” of God. We have confidence that God is close to us, that He really shares in our humanity and raises it up in His divinity. In this Eucharist, Jesus really feeds us with His Body and Blood so that He can also feed us from the fullness of His divine nature. Jesus nourishes and raises up our own body and blood with His, so that in every aspect of our lives, we can live more and more as sons and daughters of God by His grace in us.

As we begin the year 2020, we pray for the resolution to recommit our lives to Christ, to share patiently even in the sufferings of His Cross so that we can share also in the joy and fullness of his Resurrection. We pray for the logic of recognizing Christ for who He really is, Christ our Life and our Light, our Lord and our God, and the confidence to know that staying close to Mary, the Mother of God, will help us stay focused on Christ during this new year and to follow Him wherever He leads us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The First Thanksgiving

Bulletin Letter, Christ the King C

During my assignment at the Cathedral in Sioux Falls, one of the other priests there started a small garden next to the rectory, growing basil, peppers, and tomatoes. Every so often, he would use a very fragrant fertilizer made from fish parts. If you’re familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving, you’ll recall that the Native American Squanto taught the Pilgrims to plant their crops along with placing fish in the ground for fertilizer. This helped them to even have a harvest to celebrate Thanksgiving in October of 1621. What we probably don’t realize, and what most history books don’t mention, is that the feast in 1621 among English settlers was actually not the first Thanksgiving Feast held in what is now the United States.

The First was actually celebrated among Spanish settlers near what would become St. Augustine in Florida on September 8, 1565, more than half a century earlier. After making it to shore, the chaplain of the expedition, Fr. Francisco Lopez, celebrated Mass (the word ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek for ‘Thanksgiving’) to give praise and thanks to God for a safe voyage. Being September 8, they celebrated in honor of the Birthday of Mary, the Mother of God (nine months after the observance of her Immaculate Conception on December 8).

After Mass, Fr. Lopez ordered that the natives from the Timucua tribe be fed along with the Spanish settlers. That first Thanksgiving meal consisted of the supplies of the voyage, salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread, and red wine—after the Body and Blood of Christ received during Mass, of course. The meal may have also included Caribbean foods collected when they made a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on their way to Florida. If the Timucua natives contributed food, it would have likely included corn, fresh fish, berries, or beans.

Even the presence of Squanto and what he did to aid the survival of the Pilgrims leading up to the later English Thanksgiving was due in part to the help of Spanish Catholics. Squanto had been taught English and trained as an interpreter by settlers from previous expeditions in New England, but one of the officers took him back to Europe and planned to sell him into slavery. Franciscan friars in Spain found Squanto and ensured his freedom, instructed him in the faith, and likely baptized him. He later made his way to England, where he worked as a shipbuilder while improving his English. He joined an expedition to return home, where the Pilgrims would meet him a year later at Plymouth.

This Thanksgiving, we praise God for the many blessings He continues to share with us, our families, our friends, our State and country. We thank Him especially for the great gift of our Catholic faith, the salvation Christ won for us, and the nourishment He provides in His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist, that First and most awesome Thanksgiving meal.

O Morning Star

Welcome Letter, Christmas on the Prairie 2019

With great joy and gratitude to God, I have the privilege to welcome you, on behalf of all the volunteers, staff, performers, and sponsors, to the annual Christmas on the Prairie Concert. This is actually my first time attending, and I have appreciated the many welcomes extended to me as I settle into ministry in such a magnificent church.

The theme of this 16th concert, “O Morning Star,” reminds us to keep our eyes open to even the first signs of the coming dawn. Very fitting that today is December 8, usually observed in the Church’s calendar as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary within the womb of her mother, Good St. Anne.

God prepared for centuries—through the Patriarchs and Prophets and all the trials of His people Israel—for the sending of His Son into the world in our own flesh. One of His final preparations was to choose a mother for His Son. When God revealed Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He instructed the Israelites to make from pure and incorruptible materials the Ark of the Old Covenant, to house the stone tablets of the law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s staff. So much the more would God make pure and unblemished, even from the first moment of her existence, the mother who would house and nourish in her womb the Word made flesh, the true Bread from heaven, our Eternal High Priest.

The Immaculate Conception was when God preserved Mary from every stain of sin so that His only Son would have a fit dwelling place through which to enter the world. It was also the first great victory over Satan and the dominion of sin, a signal that his reign on earth was coming to an end. This is why the Virgin Mary is often called our Morning Star. Even as the planet Venus reflects the rays of the sun, so Mary reflects the light she receives entirely from God, and she signals the coming of full Dawn, Jesus our Savior, who is one God with the Father and Source of all Light.

“The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. So we should cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). In darkness, we still await the Final Dawning and Return of Christ our Light at the end of the age. Until then, let’s draw near with Mary to the manger scene, to learn with her how to reflect this Child’s Light to others, so that we too can be lights and signals of hope amid the darkness of our world today.

May His Light shine and guide you in all your ways.

Aim High

Homily, Solemnity of the Assumption

In the 1960s, there was a lot of excitement about the missions to the moon. My parents and some of you might even remember those years, but as you can tell by looking at me, I definitely don’t remember the ’60s. I hardly remember the ’90s. But, from what I’ve heard, the lunar missions represented the striving of all mankind to overcome our limitations. There was a sense that these events were significant, not just for America or for the astronauts involved, but for every human being. If even one human person succeeded in landing on the moon, then it became at least possible for any human being to reach the moon because we all share a common humanity. This communal sense of accomplishment was well expressed by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the lunar surface, saying, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The mystery we celebrate today, on this Solemnity of the Assumption, is a much more significant leap for all mankind. As God raises up to the glory of heaven His chosen and uncorrupted Ark of the New Covenant, the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are given sure and lasting hope of what God’s grace is able to accomplish for our frail humanity. You see, it’s one thing for the Lord Jesus to ascend into heaven, Jesus, who is fully human but also fully divine. We would expect someone who first came down from heaven as God, to return there after His triumph over sin and death. But today we celebrate something very different, that God “has looked with favor on his lowly servant” and given a share of His heavenly glory, and an anticipation of the resurrection of the dead, to one among us, a pure creature. One who had never before been to heaven, beyond the confines of this passing world, the Blessed Virgin Mary is now raised up, above all the angels, and our own human nature, body and soul, is given a more certain hope of the inheritance promised to each one of us through our Baptism, we who have become a new creation in Christ.

So if you are weary of life in this passing world, with all its war, violence, and politics, take courage, because God “has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.” If you tire of bodily food, and hunger instead for the food that lasts forever, place your hope in God, who “has filled the hungry with good things” and sent the rich away empty. But if you’re comfortable, satisfied with your life here on earth, complacent to simply enjoy as much as possible all that this world has to offer, take heed, because this world is passing away. Only those who have begun to live for heaven even now, will be able to follow where our Blessed Mother has gone before us. Not everyone was able to go to the moon, but only those with the necessary discipline and training.

How much are you willing to sacrifice? What sins are still weighing us down and binding us to the earth? Mary gave herself entirely. She lived her life completely for God. Why can’t we? “The Almighty has done great things,” and “nothing will be impossible for God.” By the power of God’s grace, we can serve Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, as Jesus commands us. If we hope to reach where Christ and the Blessed Virgin have gone before us, we must strive to follow their example. If we’re still just living for this world only, why should we expect to reach anything beyond it?

You’ve probably heard the saying: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Too many of us when it comes to our spiritual lives, just sort of drift. We don’t really aim for anything too specific, or if we do, we set our sights far too low. Heaven is beyond anything we could ask or imagine. There is no sacrifice too big in exchange for enjoying everlasting friendship and union with almighty God. May our Blessed Mother teach us to value those things which are truly important in life, to put first things first. To aim high, so that we’ll be able to follow her in living for ever.

The Assumption and Days of Obligation

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 19C

This week, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, the oldest Marian Feast on the calendar. In the East, it is more often called the Dormition, or “falling asleep” of Mary, recalling that she was preserved throughout her life from original sin and from any personal sin. Free from sin, like Jesus her Son, she was not subject to death in the way that we are. Death is one of the consequences of sin, so being without sin, she did not have to die. If Mary died, it was not from any necessity but allowed by God to unite her more closely with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, who freely accepted Death upon the Cross for our salvation.

Whether she died or not, what we know for sure is that at the end of Mary’s earthly life, she was assumed, taken up, body and soul into the glory of heaven. “Go up, O Lord, to your resting place; you and the ark of your strength” (Psalm 132:8). Mary was the incorruptible Ark of the New Covenant. The old Ark of the Covenant in the Temple contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, the staff of the high priest Aaron, and a jar of manna that fed the Israelites in the desert. Mary, the New Ark, housed in her womb for nine months Jesus Christ, God in the Flesh. She bore the eternal Logos, the Law that shapes and governs all that exists, the High Priest and Mediator of a New and Eternal Covenant, He whose Flesh is the Bread from heaven that sustains us for everlasting life.

The Assumption is a holy day of obligation. We’ll have Mass at 7pm on Wednesday in Hoven and at 7 pm on Thursday in Bowdle. Hopefully everyone is able to make it to one of those times. Attendance at the Supreme Sacrifice of Christ in the Mass on every Sunday and holy day of obligation should be the priority of our spiritual lives. Except when serious obstacles arise, failure to keep the Lord’s Day holy in this way is a grave sin. Travel or being out of town, vacations or sporting events are not excuses. What does our effort or lack of effort to get to Mass say to God about how much we really value our relationship with Him? When we’re willing to go such distances and bear with such inconveniences for work, shopping, or sports, should we not be willing to endure much more for the Body and Blood of Christ?

Waste Your Life on Jesus

Homily, Epiphany

As we begin the new year 2019, many of us take the opportunity to look ahead and to mark on our calendars the significant events and celebrations of friends and family, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, but how often do we look forward to the celebrations we will share together as the family of God? Today, the light of God’s glory has been revealed to the nations, as the three magi arrive to adore the Christ Child and to see His Mother. That light and revelation of God will only increase throughout the year, as we celebrate the mystery of the Cross, the saving death of Christ, foreshadowed even today in the gift of myrrh, and as the overwhelming light of the Resurrection dawns upon us, to scatter all darkness and to destroy sin and death forever.

God has big plans for us this year, if we are willing to spend it with Him, if we strive to place Jesus at the center of our families, at the center of marriages, at the center of all that we do in school, at work, in our free time. Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us, and He wants to be with us always. Do we welcome Him? Or does Jesus take a back seat to so many other things in our lives? Do we fill our schedules only to give God what is left over, if there is anything left? At the bidding of a star, the three magi uprooted their entire lives. They put all their other plans on hold, to walk hundreds of miles just for a chance to search for the newborn King of the Jews. How many miles would we be willing to walk for God? How many months or years of our lives would we be willing to give in search of Jesus?

In my own life, whether I realized it or not, I was always searching for Jesus. I had lots of interests. I was always an excellent student. I could have pursued pretty much any field of study or career, but I ultimately decided to waste my life on Jesus. Do you know why? It’s not because I thought it would be an easy life. It’s not even that I thought I could make much of a difference as a priest, although I probably thought so at one time. As the culture continues to shift away from God and as different scandals continue to break in parts of the Church, I fully expect to receive the hatred of the world in return for my service. So why am I still here? Why are you still sitting here on a Sunday morning? Why am I willing, even to waste my life in the priesthood? Only because Jesus Christ deserves it.

Jesus deserves everything. The One who gave everything on the Cross for our salvation, for my salvation, He deserves everything in return, whatever smallest good that I am able to accomplish by His grace, whatever small tribute we are able to lay at the feet of Him and His Mother. The magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh over many miles to waste them on a Child too small to make any use of them. And Jesus still deserves more. How much are we willing to give Him? How much are we willing to waste on Jesus? He deserves more than just some time on Sunday. He deserves more than what is left over in our schedules and in our energies and resources. In 2019, how much more are you willing to waste on Jesus Christ?

Vader, Father of a Jedi; Mary, Mother of God

Homily, Mary, Mother of God

When I was in school, math always came easily to me. I come from a family of engineers. To give you some idea, all six of my brothers studied engineering of one kind or another, and my oldest sister is a high school math teacher, so I think it was something genetic that allowed us all to excel in mathematics. And I believe it was in Math class that I first heard about the transitive property or transitive relations. Now I realize that many people struggle with math, and hearing something like ‘transitive property’ might drudge up painful memories or just a general sense of confusion or hopelessness, and it’s probably still a little early after a late night of New Year’s parties to be talking about logic, but stay with me, and I’ll try to illustrate what I’m saying with simple examples.

Let’s use Star Wars as our first example. In one of the movies, we find out that Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker. We also know that Luke Skywalker is a jedi. Therefore, Darth Vader is the father of a jedi. Now for those who aren’t as familiar with Star Wars, let’s take another example. As I mentioned before, my brothers are engineers, and my mother is also the mother of my brothers. Therefore, my mother is the mother of engineers. Make sense? That’s the transitive property at work. We use it all the time, without even thinking about it. We substitute ‘engineers’ in one sentence for ‘brothers’ in another statement, because we know that these two terms refer to the same individuals, that the brothers are engineers, so the mother has the same relationship to both.

Now the Solemnity that we celebrate today honors Mary with the title ‘Mother of God,’ but it also safeguards what we believe about Jesus Christ. This is why it’s always been difficult for me to understand why so many non-Catholics have a problem with this title of the Blessed Mother. If we believe Jesus is God, the Son of God, with the same divinity as God the Father or the Holy Spirit, if we believe that Jesus was truly God even at the time of his birth, and if Mary is the Mother of Jesus, then, quite logically, Mary is the Mother of God. Of course, we know that the divinity of Christ does not originate in Mary the way that His humanity does. As God, He has His origin from the Father from all eternity, before time began and before Mary even existed. But the Incarnation is real. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was really born from a human Mother. The eternal Son of God joined together in his one Divine Person His divinity and our humanity. The Incarnation is so real that whatever can be said of Jesus in His humanity can also be said of the Son of God, because ‘Jesus’ and ‘Son of God’ refer to the very same Person. So Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is also called Mother of God because Jesus is God.

This title is also Scriptural, because we find in Luke 1:43, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth asks, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mother of my Lord. Who is Elizabeth calling “my Lord” if not the Lord of all, the God of Israel, believing that the Messiah would somehow be identical with God Himself, as we hear from St. Paul in the second reading, that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” of God. As we confess in the Creed, Jesus was true God and true man. That is why we honor Mary with the title Mother of God. That’s why we have confidence that God is so close to us, that he really shares in our humanity and raises it up in His divinity. In this Eucharist, He really feeds us with His Body and Blood so that He can also feed us from the fullness of His divine nature.

As we begin the year 2019, we pray for the resolution to recommit our lives to Christ, to share patiently even in the sufferings of His Cross so that we can share in the joy and fullness of his Resurrection. We pray for the logic of recognizing Christ for who He really is, Christ our Life and our Light, our Lord and our God, and the confidence to know that staying close to Mary, the Mother of God, will help us stay focused on Christ during this new year and to follow Him wherever He leads us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.