Saturday, January 1, 2011

Imitating the Mother of God

Jesus praying with Mary
Readings for Saturday, January 1
(Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God):
Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2,3,5,6,8
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

Each year at Christmas and Easter we celebrate what is called an octave. We recognize the significance of those two great events in the plan of salvation and so celebrate them not for a single day but for eight consecutive days. As we celebrate this octave of Christmas, we have the opportunity to reflect for a longer time on the mystery of the Son of God taking on human flesh and dwelling among us. And as we reflect on this great mystery, it is also fitting that we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Mother of God. As with all of her titles and honors, this title certainly speaks to her special graces received, but it also speaks to us about Christ Himself. Really, she speaks to us about Christ.

In referring to Our Lady as the Mother of God, the early Church Fathers saw that this affirmed that Christ was both fully God and fully Man. He is the Lord of all creation coming to dwell among us to bring us into that relationship with the Father. And He chose to do this by taking on our nature, experiencing everything but sin. These are the most evident ways that Mary, under this blessed title, directs us to her son. But there is also another way and this is in the fact that she is the mother of God. The relationship between a mother and child is a special one in which the child constantly learns from the mother and imitates her.

I was once told a story by a lady that when she was younger she had a car with one of those roofs where the lining was falling in and it would flap in the wind while she was driving down the road. To keep it out of the way she would hold the wheel with her left hand and hold up the cloth from the roof in her right hand while she drive. The funny thing was that one day she came into the living room and found her little daughter sitting on the floor with her right hand raised in the air and her left hand out in front of her. The mother asked, “what are you doing?” and the daughter innocently replied, “I’m driving.” The daughter had associated her mother’s action of holding up the cloth from the roof with that being the proper way to drive. She simply imitated her mother.

And as we look at Mary, we recognize that she is not just the Mother of God, but that she is also our mother. And just as the little girl imitated her mother in driving, so we are to imitate our mother Mary in prayer. This is what our gospel speaks to us today. Mary hears the many great things from the men who came to see the Christ child and she reflects on them in her heart. And she seeks to share that with us.

I’ve been coming here throughout the week to spend time praying before this beautiful nativity scene we have and when I read this gospel passage a few days ago I noticed that this is the exact scene described in our gospel. You can even see it on the face of Mary as she quietly, simply gazes upon her little son, reflecting on the many things that were just told her about Him. Surely the thoughts stream through her head as she hears again those words of the Archangel Gabriel nine months before, the words of her cousin Elizabeth, and the many hidden things in her life leading up to that day. And she continued to reflect all of this throughout Christ’s whole life – from his time as a carpenter and the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana up to His passion and death, where she knelt at the foot of the Cross reflecting on all of this in her heart. Certainly she experienced sorrow, but she also contemplated all that had been in the past and all that was to come. In all of this she held it in her heart, contemplating the mystery of her son and the plan of God unfolding before her. And as her sons and daughters, she desires for us to join with her in this contemplating. She seeks to have us imitate her in pondering the Lord who came among us.

Those of you who came to Mass yesterday were told by Fr. Frank that I like to give homework in my homilies. While I don’t want to start the New Year by giving you homework, I want to suggest something that you might consider as a bonus assignment that will certainly gain you many graces. Sometime today or tomorrow, take some time to be with Mary. Find a good place to really enter into the silence and ponder in your heart with our mother the many things that she seeks to show you, the things that she herself has come to see in Him. You may want to do this by praying a rosary and really trying to enter into the mysteries and the prayers. Or maybe you could come and sit here before the nativity, gazing upon the child with His mother. Or you could go into the adoration chapel and sit in the seat that is literally at the feet of the statue of Our Lady, gazing upon the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. In all of these, we are sure to be blessed if we simply turn to our mother and truly contemplate with her the face of Jesus Christ.