The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: Bishop MacDaid

Posted on 06. Jan, 2012

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

1 January 2012 

Introduction

 

My dear friends,

I welcome you all to St. Macartan’s Cathedral this evening as we gather to celebrate the Vigil Mass for 1 January 2012, the first day of the New Year.  Fittingly, we begin the year with a celebration of birth and Motherhood, because 1 January is the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  New life rarely fails to draw from us feelings of wonder, of affection and an urge to protect.  In practice, that normally expresses itself in a smile.  What better way is there to meet and greet the New Year than with a smile.  A smile will not prevent us from asking God for forgiveness for our mistakes.

 

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

1 January 2012 

Homily

My dear friends,

With much hope the Church begins this new year with a celebration of Mary, Mother of Jesus, a model of faithfulness and strength for all believers.  Mary’s life, like the lives of all mothers, was inextricably bound up with the life of her child.  She is featured, especially in the Gospels of Luke and John, at each of the significant moments of the life of Jesus from his conception and birth to his ministry, to his passion and death on the cross and burial.  Mary is also featured in the Acts of the Apostles as being present and supportive in the post Resurrection community of believers.

Wherever she is mentioned in Scripture, Mary is represented as an exemplary mother and disciple, someone who hears the word of God and keeps it.  The process of hearing God’s word and translating it into actions requires a life-long effort.  In today’s Gospel Luke tells us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Scripture scholars tell us that the Greek verb used “symballein” means literally “to toss things together in our heart.”

At this time, the turn of the year, a certain spirit of reflection and thoughtfulness can come over all of us.  Another year has come and maybe a certain stock-taking is in order.  We find ourselves checking where we are and where we are going and asking what changes need to be made to ensure that we are making the best use of our time and faithfully discharging our responsibilities.  We are turning over a new page, beginning another chapter and others are talking about new year’s resolutions.  That can bring a groan from somewhere deep down as we think of past resolutions that were painfully short-lived.

But then, in our better moments, we acknowledge that being human, with all the inbuilt weakness that goes along with it, means accepting the need to struggle and we can see that it is those who accept the struggle who ultimately achieve the satisfaction and joy that life can and does bring.  We all have to work hard at the commitments and relationships that are part of our lives and without the struggle over the years there will be empty bins rather than a rich harvest.

A man relates how when he was a little boy, he was forever coming home late from school.  He was late for dinner every day.  His parents finally got fed up and said, “Look, next time you come late for dinner, you will get bread and water.  That’s it!  Sure enough, the next day the boy came home late from school.  He walked into the house and there were his mother and father with plates of meat, potatoes and vegetables in front of them.  In front of his place were a plate of bread and a glass of water.

The boy was crushed.  His father waited for the full weight of the lesson to sink in, then silently took his own rather full plate and put it in front of the son.  He took his son’s rather empty plate and put it in front of himself.  And this man – or rather the boy who has since grown to be a man – now says “All my life I have known what God is like by what my father did that night.”

Oscar Romero, in one of his homilies before he was martyred said, “The truest homage that a Christian can make to Mary is, like her, to make the effort to incarnate God’s life in the fluctuations of our fleeting history.” The story you have just listened to says the same thing but maybe expresses it more graphically and more simply.

Birth is a miracle from God.  Every mother of a newborn can look down with awe at the new life she cradles in her arms.  She might ask her child, “Where did you come from, little one?”  She might speak the words of the poet, Maureen Hawkins, “Before you were conceived, I wanted you.  Before you were born, I loved you.  Before you were here an hour, I would give my life for you.”   That’s what Mary did.  She gave birth and gave her life to caring for her son and all who were part of his life.

That’s why on this the first day of a new year we celebrate the Motherhood of Mary.  She is put forward as a model for us.  What she gave is what God is asking all of us, who profess to be his followers, to give – to give our lives in loving service of one another.  Not a bad blueprint for the year ahead.  Even if we have done wrong, failed in many ways and messed up our lives, we can still share a full plate with someone who has an empty one.  We can show somebody what God is like without letting them know what we are doing.  People learn about God from others who act in a Godlike way.  It is my wish and prayer for all of you as we begin 2012 that God will give you, as he gave to Mary, the grace to live like this during the year ahead and to experience the joy of knowing that it is indeed more joyful more blessed and more fulfilling to give rather than to receive.

+Liam S. MacDaid

1 January 2012

                   

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