Homily, Mary Mother of God
I sometimes wonder about my parents, at the time of their wedding, what ideas they would have had about what their life together was going to look like, whether they had any idea that they would be raising nine kids, and how much trouble each one of us would be. And had they known, would they still have gone through with it? As the youngest, I am definitely glad that they did not stop after the eighth kid. But throughout their life together, they remained open to God’s plan for their marriage and for their family, and with great generosity and faith, they received each new life with great thanksgiving.
As we celebrate today the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and as we continue to contemplate with the shepherds the manger scene, I often wonder if Mary realized at the time of the Annunciation—nine months earlier, when she said “yes” to her vocation as Mother of God—did Mary realize what this was going to mean for her life and reputation, and for her marriage with St. Joseph? Did she foresee the rumors that would circulate about the child’s origin, the gossip and the calling into question of her own fidelity, in being found pregnant before living with her husband? Today we think of “Mother of God” as a title of great honor, but during her own lifetime, Mary’s vocation as Mother of God probably brought her the suspicion and scorn of her neighbors. But throughout her trials, Mary remained open to God’s plan for her life and for her marriage, trusting that God’s plan would be far better than her own expectations and desires, even when that plan proved difficult, and next to impossible to understand.
The Gospel today tells us that as Mary heard about the shepherds’ vision of angels, she “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary continued to try to understand what being the Mother of God would mean for her and for the world. As they named her Son Jesus, which means ‘salvation,’ did she ever wonder what that salvation was going to cost, what God the Father’s plan would entail for Jesus and for herself on Calvary someday? And just how bitterly her faith would be put to the test as she would witness her own Son’s crucifixion?
We should not celebrate today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God enthroned in heaven, without keeping in mind and learning from what that title cost her. If it is true that God lifts up the lowly, then it’s often only through various trials and sufferings that God brings us to the glory He has planned for us. As I was growing up my mother made it clear to me and to my siblings, that what we wanted to do or what we wanted to be when we grew up was not nearly as important as what God wanted us to be and what God wanted us to do with our lives. I remember hearing one of my brothers tell her, “Well, I’ve thought about the priesthood. I just don’t think it’s for me.” Then she’d reply, “It doesn’t matter what you think. What does God think about it?” If it’s not something you regularly ask already, I encourage you to pray every day of this new year, and to ask, “God, what do You want me to do? What is Your will for my life?”
And even if we’re older and we’ve already set out upon our vocation, there is never a stage of life when we no longer need to ask this question. I’ve become a priest. That is my vocation. But am I being the sort of priest that God wants me to be, or am I serving merely my own will? Out of concern for my reputation and comfort, do I take the easy road rather than the road that God has laid out for me? Do I shy away from speaking difficult truths, the teachings of the Church that are not as readily accepted by Catholics today? No matter what your vocation or occupation, how can your marriage better serve God’s plan and reflect God’s own sacrificial love? How can your work and your way of conducting yourself and your business better reflect God’s work in the world, God’s justice, mercy, peace, and generosity? In retirement, how can you use your time and resources to better serve God’s purposes and the people around you? For all of us, what are the compromises with evil that we’ve made, to avoid discomfort, to avoid any possibility of confrontation or difficult conversation, to avoid any trial of faith, and ultimately, to miss the opportunity of becoming what God has called us to be? What are the limits that we’ve placed upon ourselves or upon God that keep us from fully embracing all that God has revealed through the teachings of the Catholic Church?
One of the most frequent things God says to us throughout the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” Give yourself entirely to Christ and to God’s plan for your life. Whatever the trials or sufferings, I promise you, they are worth it. God’s plan for your life will far exceed your own desires and expectations. The world today is in desperate need of saints—those who have been radicalized for Christ—not people who are halfway. Mary gave everything to God and through her trials became Mother of all the living. Let’s follow our Mother’s example as we rely on her prayers. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.