Friday, January 1, 2010

Mary the Mother of God

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (2: 16-21)

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

Mother of God
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

We are now at the beginning of a new year. As we look back we surely must be grateful for the gift of time. How much more time we shall have, we do not know. But time is precious, and it must be used well. At the start of the new year our question ought be, what must we do with the time we are given? We must use it to attain the end for which we are created, which is to know, love and serve Our Lord here on earth, and in this way to see and enjoy him forever in heaven. If this goal is not attained, the time given to us has been wasted. The critical question for the coming year is, how are we to find Jesus Our Lord, and how are we to love and serve him? Well, right at the beginning of the year the Church places before us the figure of Mary the Mother of God. The Church does this for a simple reason. Christ is the gift of the Father to humanity and in sending his Son among us he entrusted him to Mary. He was born of the Virgin Mary. In our Gospel scene today, the shepherds were directed by the angel to go to the town of Bethlehem and there they would find the Saviour who had been born to them, Christ the Lord. They hurried away to Bethlehem to see him, and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger. The Child was not alone but with Mary. Our Lord is best found by going to Mary, and by being close to Mary. Furthermore, while Christ is found not alone but with Mary, Mary is not alone either. When the shepherds went to Bethlehem they found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. Mary is found with Joseph, reminding us that just as Christ is found in the company of his holy mother, so she in her turn is found in the company of her holy husband Joseph. If we stay close to Mary and Joseph we shall be staying close to Jesus.

There is a further point. Mary and Joseph are not alone either. They were, and are, the first and foremost members of the Church: Mary is the Church’s mother and model; Joseph is the Church’s universal protector. They are the first and foremost members of the Church, and in them we the Church have a mother, a protector and models. Christ is found with Mary, and being found with Mary he is found also with Joseph. More, he is found in the heart of the Church. Christ comes to us and is found by us as head of the Church, his body. Therefore we are reminded in today’s celebration of Mary the mother of God that an essential element of involvement with Christ is involvement with the Church which is his body. At times one hears the statement, Christ yes, the Church no. Those who say this mean that they are happy to seek and serve the person of Jesus, but only Jesus. That is to say, they do not want to have much to do with the Church. But God does not work that way in bringing us the gift of redemption. God sent his Son to us born of a woman, and as a child of the holy family. That holy family was the incipient Church, gathered around Jesus who came forth to man from within its midst. That is to say, in the plan of God, Christ comes to us from within the Church which is his body. To know Christ Jesus we must draw near to his Church, learning to love the Church just as Christ loves her. On this day when we think of Mary the Mother of God, we think also of her as the mother of the Church. It is through her, mother and member of the Church, that Christ has come to us. So we think of the Church, body, spouse and family of Christ.

This is a very important point. At times it is said that Britain and Australia are Christian countries, though very secular as well. The United States is a Christian country, and Protestant in principle. Well, if it can be said that to some extent our secular culture is Christian, it has to be said also that its Christianity has mainly Protestant traits. A Protestant Christianity favours the image of the Christian life as a matter between me and Jesus, very much a one-to-one thing, in which there is not much real place for the Church, the sacraments, the priesthood, the saints, and Mary and Joseph. These elements are perceived as distractions from the person of Jesus. The Catholic Christian bewares of this image of the Christian life, and he realizes that it is the image that our culture favours. Of course the Christian life is a matter between the individual and Christ, but Christ comes to the individual not alone but as part of a company, as it were. He comes as head of the Church which he founded and sustains. Right from the beginning at Bethlehem he comes from God in the arms of his mother Mary, and in the company of Joseph. The seeker will find him in the company of his chosen ones. That is to say, he is found in his body the Church, of which Mary is the foremost member, and the mother and the model, and of which Joseph is the guardian. Today’s feast ought renew our resolve to make Christ the centre of our life this coming year, but doing so in union with Mary our mother, with Joseph our heavenly foster-father and guardian, with, indeed, the whole Church of God. Catholic Christianity appreciates this fundamental facet of the manner in which God has come among us. God dwells with us and sanctifies us in, through and with his Church. Let us unite ourselves to this great cloud of witnesses surrounding us and dominated by the figure of Mary the mother of God. Let us resolve with the help of the Church to seek the union with our Lord that we are called to.

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