Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Luke 2:16-21
AIM: To present Mary as the model of trusting faith in the new year.
A new year! What will it bring? Some great success? Humiliating failure? Unexpected happiness, or sudden loss? Dramatic change, or just more of the same? Illness, suffering, or death? We cannot know what the new year will bring. The one certain thing about the future is its uncertainty. As we venture into the unknown, the Church gives us, on this New Year’s Day, a feast in honor of Mary, the Mother of God. Does this mean that Mary is as important as her Son, equal even with God? Of course not.
Why does the Church dedicate this first day of the new year in a special way to Mary? Because Mary is, in a unique way, the woman of faith. While only on the threshold of her teens, Mary was asked by God to venture into an unknown future, filled with suffering, the purpose and end of which she could not possibly understand in advance. We think of the angel’s message to Mary, that she was to be the mother of God’s Son, as something wonderful. To Mary, however, it meant being an unmarried mother in a little village, where everyone knew everyone else’s business, and where gossip was rife.
The faith which enabled Mary to accept her role in this mystery was no once-for-all thing. Her faith, like ours, needed to be constantly renewed amid suffering and misunderstanding. Joseph wanted to break their engagement. In the
heard the aged Simeon prophesy her
Son’s rejection and his mother’s suffering. When her twelve-year-old Son told
Mary and Joseph, who for three days had thought him lost in Jerusalem and
sought him frantically, that he had to be in his Father’s house, Luke tells us
that “they did not understand” what he was telling them. (Lk 2:50) temple Mary
There would be much more that Mary did not understand and could not understand. In time her Son left home. Often thereafter he seemed to be fulfilling his own command about “hating” parents and other close relatives, and one’s “own life too” (Lk 14:26). At
Cana, the site of his first miracle, Jesus appeared to
treat his mother with perplexing disrespect. Even at the Last Supper Jesus made
no place, it seems, for his mother. Only at Calvary
was she permitted to stand beside her now dying Son, along with “the disciple
whom Jesus loved” — deliberately left anonymous, so that he can represent the
ideal follower of Jesus Christ in every age and place.
There on Calvary Mary experienced the full truth of Simeon’s prophecy three decades before: that a sword would pierce her own soul. There she shared the anguish of her dying Son, as he cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
was the final and greatest test of Mary’s faith, the place where she had to
renew once again, as she had done so often before, the declaration of trusting
faith with which she had begun: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” The
final glimpse we have of Mary in the New Testament shows her to be still the
woman of faith: joining with the friends of Jesus in prayer in the upper room
before the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost, as Jesus had promised. (Cf. Acts 1:24) Jerusalem
The Church sets Mary before us today because she, like us, needed faith to journey into the unknown; because her faith can inspire in us the we faith we need for our journey into the unknown; and because Mary’s prayers support us on our pilgrim way.
Let me conclude with some words which evoke this trusting faith. They were written in
about a century ago. As you listen, you may wish to imagine them being spoken
to you by Mary, the woman of faith,
as you cross the threshold of a new year. England
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way.’” [M. Louise Haskins; quoted by King George VI of England in his Christmas broadcast, 1939]