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Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life
Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 1984 Homily
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Today's feast, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, was instituted by the late Pope Paul VI. He explained in his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus (The Veneration of Mary), why this feast was established and he gave five reasons:
These five motives are not only for today's feast but for a lifetime veneration of Mary as the Mother of God.
Mary's Part in the Mystery of Salvation
Mary was chosen from all eternity to become the Mother of God. No other human being will ever again have this privilege; we are sure that God has become man only once. The moment she was conceived in her Mother's womb, she was prepared for her role by being immaculately conceived. She was according to tradition consecrated to God from childhood; and over the centuries, the Church has been teaching, anyone who has reached the age of reason can make if they wish, a lifelong vow to God. The Church's unbroken tradition has also been that Mary from childhood took a perpetual vow of virginity. Mysteriously, having done that, she was nevertheless espoused to Joseph, evidentially, because God wanted it; then as the Scriptures open the history of salvation, she received the visit of the Angel Gabriel inviting her, that's the only word we may use, inviting her to become as he said the Mother of the Most High. As the virgin most-prudent, she asked for an explanation; she was assured the child would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. That's why ever since, there are three titles the Church applies to Mary - The Favored Daughter of God the Father, The Chosen Mother of God the Son, and The Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
She gave as we believe her fiat, which is the Latin for be it done; note, the passive voice, let God do it. And then, we further believe on her willing acceptance of the invitation, we have to say this, depended the salvation of the world. Among other things this tells us is that we don't have to be able to commit sin in order to make a voluntary free choice. Mary, conceived without sin and by Divine Grace impeccable, nevertheless could make a free decision where there was no question of sin or not; indeed the highest function of the human will, how could it be otherwise, is not to choose between sinning and not, the highest function of the human will is to choose to love God and serve Him beyond what we absolutely have to do under pain of sin.
All through Christ's life on earth, Mary was closely, couldn't have been more intimately associated with her Son in His work of salvation. Her principle message to us was remember at Cana. Actually, Christ had not as far as we can take His words literally intended to do what He eventually did do. She told the stewards at the wedding feast "do whatever He tells you", that is Mary's principle message to the world, her message to us; but then implicitly she adds 'do whatever My Son tells you to do and then expect miracles in your life', that's the message. We do her Son's Will and He will work miracles.
Mary stood under the Cross at Calvary and heard Jesus tell her we are her children and told John, representing us, that she is our Mother. Then it didn't have to be but since nothing happens by chance, Mary, humanly speaking, outlived her Son. Mind you, this is the everlasting God, yet on earth Mary came before Him and on earth Mary lived after Him. Are God's way ever mysterious! And during her, what tradition again tells us, about fifteen years living after her Son's ascension, having mothered the physical Christ, she proceeded to mother the mystical Christ. Sure Peter and the Apostles were the pillars of the Church, though until Pentecost, they were very tottering pillars indeed but they needed a Mother. Her Son knew them, oh how well He knew them, quitely, hiddenly, humbly, she mothered the infant Church; and now in Heaven she is God's chosen channel from Christ through Her that we might receive the graces of salvation that Christ in Her presence merited for us on the Cross.
Mary's Dignity as the Mother of the Author of Life
Why the feast of the Solemnity, Mary Mother of God? To exult Mary's dignity as the Mother of the Author Of life. Mary's Son is the Author of life by a two-fold title - as God, He is the Author of our physical life and as the God-Man, He merited our supernatural life except for Him, the second Adam, none of us would have any chance of one day seeing the face of God. Mary, in the profoundest sense conceivable, is therefore the Mother of our life; Mother of the One Who gave and Who gives and that we fondly trust will continue giving to all eternity. Mary is the Mother on whom our life past, present and future depends.
In today's anti-life world, the figures for 1982 over 55 million abortions throughout the world and all the evidence is they will be higher when finally recorded for the year just ended. The only nation in Europe still left that has not legislated abortion, thanks to St. Patrick, is Ireland but the pressures on Ireland going the rest of the way, the pressure is satanic. In today's world that hates human life, Mary is the one especially who teaches us how precious is life, unborn, handicapped, aged and diseased. Remember because Christ was conceived as we believe without a human father, humanly speaking, Mary was totally responsible for the human life of Christ in His body; God had to immediately create Christ's soul but the body of Christ, as St. Augustine so beautifully, says, the flesh of Mary was and derivatively still is the flesh of Jesus the flesh of Marry. She also teaches us how precious is the life of grace to be preserved against mortal sin in a world that has gone mad in its indifference to sin, how we need the inspiration of the spot-less, sin-less, Mary, Mother of God.
Mary as Model of Adoration of Christ
Mary's Son is God; she adored Him already in her womb. She adored Him literally all through His visible stay on earth and lets make sure, Mary's adoration of Her Son was no simple motherly admiration; no poetic figure of speech when we talk about Mary looking upon Her Son and adoring Him; this adoration is without quotation marks because on faith which Mary had she believed the child she conceived and gave birth to, was, is, and for all eternity will be the infinite God. Mary now we are sure continues adoring her Son in Heaven.
Now the lesson - there are two ways that God can and should be adored; there is the adoration of humble submission recognizing as we do that God is our Maker, our Sustainer, and the One except for Whom we would lapse back into the nothingness from which we came; God surely deserves to be adored. But there is another form of adoration, the adoration, not of submission and dependence, of obedience which we should practice, and Mary did, but the adoration of love. Where Mary, and she gives us the lesson, recognized in the Child she bore as God indeed, as the Creator of the universe, but also as the destiny of everyone born into the world in other words, Mary adored Christ as not only the God from Whom we came but the God for Whom we are made. And I'm afraid too often we overlook the fact that in loving God we can be adoring Him. What is Mary telling us? That though, ordinarily and commonly, love is between equals but we can not only love someone beneath us as God loves us, we can not only love someone equal to us but we can also, and this is Mary's great lesson, we can adore God who is infinitely above us. Is that still love? Yes. How is it possible; by the grace of God. How did God make it feasible, practical, realizable, by becoming Mary's child.
Mary as Model and Cause of Our Joy
At the Annunciation Mary was told by the Angel "rejoice full of grace"; at the Visitation Elizabeth told Mary that the unborn John the Baptist as she told Mary "the moment your greeting reached" get it, the moment, "the child in my womb leapt for joy". Elizabeth also told Mary that she was blessed which means happy because as Elizabeth said 'Mary believed that the promises made her by the Lord would be fulfilled'. In the Magnificat, Mary sang saying "My spirit exults" which means rejoices exceedingly "in God my Savior". All of these were before Christ was born. Then in Bethlehem Mary was the first to hear the report from the shepherds at what the Angels told her "I bring news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people". Then with Bethlehem began Mary's sorrows. Talk about the mysterious providence of God. We may be sure however how the promise of joy, at the joy that Mary experienced while the Christ Child was in her womb, she never lost, but what a lesson what a basic lesson for us. Joy consists in doing the Will of God. Doing God's Will can be demanding as it was in Mary's life. It may mean as in her case having the sword pierce one's heart, not once but many times. This is THE lesson that Mary teaches us; that provided we do God's Will honestly, sincerely, generously, wholeheartedly, of course, it will mean self-denial, of course it will call for sacrifice, what on earth do you expect. But beneath the sorrow along with the sacrifice not in spite of but because God's Will can demand so much surrender from our wills because, because we are assured joy that Mary surely experienced, deep, deep down in our spirit, even as Mary said my spirit rejoices exceedingly in God my Savior".
The Mother of the Prince of Peace
Finally and not unexpectedly, the Holy Father in instituting today's feast wanted to make sure that we kept Mary in mind invoking her the Mother of the Prince of Peace to obtain peace for a world that is in such conflict everywhere.
Lets recall what the shepherds told our Lady; the Angels they told her, in their best maybe ungrammatical Aramaic, "peace to man of good will". Mary never forgot, how could she, she lived it. We shall be at peace if our wills are good; that's written in the mast-head of God's magna carta for mankind. Our wills are good if and in so far as they are in agreement with the Will of God. It is all so simple of course can also be hard. What then is the logic of peace; couldn't be plainer, first condition our wills conformed to the Will of God; every lack of peace, every shadow of the opposite of peace in our lives, every single universal bit of it is because at least to that extent our wills are not yet fully conformed to the Will of God. Yet our wills are conformed to the Will of God, our desires, our urges and impulses, call them passions, instincts, will also be at peace; our wills will have just as much control over our passions as our will is conformed to the Will of God. Self-mastery has a very condition; that condition is a will submitted to God. And provided our impulses are under control which they will be if our wills are conformed to the will of God then we'll be at peace inside. The opposite of peace is struggle, conflict; then if we are at peace within ourselves, we shall be at peace with other people. Everyone in conflict within him or herself is always in conflict with others; then if individuals are at peace with other individuals, societies will be at peace with other societies there will in effect be peace within nations. All of this begins where Mary began by having our wills as was her will totally simply, humbly, conformed to the Will of God. What joy for her to know that the God to Whom her will was conformed was the Jesus who invited her will to choose to become His Mother.
Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the One on Whom the universe depends; Mother of the One on Whom all our joy in this life depends; Mother of the God expect for Whom none of us would have any peace on earth, or any hope of happiness in the life to come; Mary, Mother of God pray for us.
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