Mary Mother of God

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/01/02 at 12:00 AM

While most of the world calls this day “New Year’s Day,” today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. And nowadays – some 2000 years after Mary’s life on earth – we don’t even blink at this audacious title.
But if we stop for a moment and think about this title, we might be a bit confused. How can anyone be called the Mother of God?
God is eternal, and is therefore unborn. He existed before time began; He is unbegotten. It is He Who made everything and holds everything in being. So how can God have a mother?
The early Church fathers wrestled with this very question, and in fact they were so reluctant to give her this title that it took them 400 years to do so.
The title “Theotokos” – which means “God-Bearer” – was not accorded to Mary until 431 AD at the Council of Ephesus – a full four centuries after the death of Christ! And this was done only amidst great controversy and division. But it is ultimately from this council that we get today’s feast.
What we must understand about this feast is that it does not stand alone. To fully appreciate it the richness of it, we must understand it in connection with the great solemnity we celebrated just one week ago: Christmas!
In fact, today’s Gospel returns us to the Christmas story. What the Church is telling us with this Gospel is that we can only understand Mary’s virginal motherhood by looking at the Incarnation.
Very simply put, Mary is called “Theotokos”, she is called the “Mother of God” because God the Father chose to send His Son, Jesus, the eternal Word in Whom and through Whom all things were made, into this world.
And why did He do this? St. Paul gives us the answer in today’s second reading. He tells us that God sent His son to ransom those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons! In other words, He sent His son to save us by making us His very own.

But today’s feast is not only connected to Christmas. To fully appreciate Mary’s role as Mother of God, one must look at all of the great Marian feasts.
For example, for God to bring about the miracle of the Incarnation, He needed a vehicle, someone who would be willing to say “yes” to bearing His Son.
But even before He could ask someone to bear His Son, He needed to preserve her from all stain of sin so that she would be worthy to bear the Christ Child. By a singular grace, God preserved Mary from all stain of original sin – she was immaculately conceived.
And because of this grace, she was asked by God through the Archangel Gabriel to bear the Christ Child – a miracle we recall every March 25 with the Feast of the Annunciation.
And because Mary said “yes” at the Annunciation, the Word was made flesh: Christ was born of Mary: the mystery we call the Incarnation, which we know from St. Paul is really the mystery of God procuring our salvation.
As a result of receiving the singular grace of being immaculately conceived and saying yes to God, Mary receives the august title “Mother of God” – because it is she who bore Jesus, who is the second person of the Blessed Trinity and who is our Lord and Savior. God further honors Mary at the end of her life by assuming her, body and soul, into heaven.

The point is that today’s feast, as well as all of the great Marian feasts, are all part of the mystery of our salvation. Mary is not some passive spectator in salvation history: she is an integral part of it. Without her “yes”, we would be in big trouble! And the Church, in recognizing this, accords her great honor with the title “Mother of God.”

My friends, as we begin this new year, let us remember that while Mary does not of herself bring about our salvation, as Catholics we know that she does play an indispensable part!
Therefore, let us pray earnestly for Our Lady’s intercession in our own lives so that she may help each of us along our own personal roads to salvation. She is God’s Mother, and therefore she is our mother too.
Have a happy and blessed new year!
1 January 2012

©Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC


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