Thursday, January 01, 2009

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - homily

If you’re like me, you don’t do well with New Year’s resolutions. I think the only resolution I’ve kept is to NOT MAKE resolutions! Maybe some of you get motivated by the change in calendar year to make improvements in your life, and I say, good for you! I get more motivated by seeing an example of someone who has made improvements in their life, making better choices, or has better habits. I get motivated by seeing the example of the saints; Mary is the greatest saint. We can look at one aspect of her life that is a great example to us: her prayer life.

Now, we might think, “well, of course, Mary had a good prayer life. She is the Mother of God, the mother of Jesus, she was immaculately conceived, she was perfect”. Yes, but she is human. She is not divine. She endured stress and busyness like we do. She had a lot going on in her life and she still made time to pray. If we look at the year in which her son was born, we see that she had a lot going on.

First, the scene at the Annunciation. She was like 14 or 15 years old, an angel appears to her and tells her that she is to be the mother of the Son of the Most High. She must have been thinking, ‘what is this all about?’ I’m sure that she reflected on that event throughout her whole life. And, then, the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in her womb. She didn’t stop with that; she went to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth. She had a long journey over rough terrain. There was a lot going on with Elizabeth – she was thought to be too old to have a baby, and she gave birth to John the Baptist. Mary stayed with her for three months; there was a lot there for her to deal with and to process.

And, then, there was a lot for her to go through with the birth of Jesus. She and Joseph were having problems – Joseph wanted to divorce her quietly. An angel needed to intervene to tell Joseph not to bolt. Then, they moved around when Jesus was about to be born and Magi and shepherds show up at that scene. Great things were said about her child, things that amazed all who were there.

There was much going on for Mary. There was much busyness and stress. There were huge events. And yet, we hear that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She found the time to pray. She needed to pray. She needed to take a step back from all of it and to find some peace. She had to reflect on what was happening in the life of her son. She had to take a deep breath and reflect on what was happening in her life. She had to gain some understanding of what God was saying to her through all of this: through the angel Gabriel, through Elizabeth, through Joseph, through the Magi and shepherds. She prayed to know what God was saying through all of this and to see what He wanted from her.

We need to imitate Mary and make time for prayer. We need to take a step back, catch our breath, and reflect on what has been going in these events that we’ve been celebrating for the past week, at least. We need to ask, ‘what is this all about?’ The more I talk with people who have been praying for many years and who say they can’t imagine life without prayer, the more I realize that prayer is a necessity for the Christian life.

We come to Mass, we come to the Eucharist, to imitate Mary and reflect on these things in our hearts. We come to take a step back and catch our breath. We come to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and our own lives, as Mary did. May each of us find the peace and understanding which God desires for us through prayer and as Mary found. May prayer help us to know God’s Will and to do it this day and throughout our lives.


At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary’s life is, indeed, inspiring. She had faith though she had good reason to fear for her life. She had faith, though she had reason to fear being cast off by her husband. She had faith when she became a refugee, and she had great faith when she ultimately witnessed her son slain in the most horrific way possible. So, yes Mary inspires me to live with faith. But she also had reassurance. She had angels visit her, angels visit her troubled spouse, babies leaping in wombs and wise men traveling from afar to adore. There were all these signs and assurances that she was on the right path. I’m not minimizing her faith; in spite of everything, I see her faith was strong.

I can’t help but wonder if my faith would be stronger, though I have problems with my spouse, stronger though I have issues with family members, stronger though I’m having health problems, stronger though I have financial worries- always strong if I have some kind of divine markers that I was on the right path.

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In spite of everything I see your faith as strong Anon 7:25.
It is at the consecration and when we have the body of Christ present within us that all seems well. If we can still our minds from present worries right then it may be possible to receive divine presence or markers. I have received this grace at times.

At 1:52 PM, Blogger fran said...

Very thought provoking post, anon 7:25.

I am thinking that we see angels as "divine markers" in the lives of Mary and Joseph, but I wonder if they did? The angel Gabriel did say to Mary "the Lord is with you," and addressed her as "favored one," but we know that Mary was troubled by these words and wondered what the angel was talking about and then went on to question him in the process.

Mary could have continued to question. She could have refused to believe that this could be and she could have said "no," but because of her great faith which existed prior to any visit by an angel, she says, "yes." The angel does not assure her that she is on the right path nor do the wise men. She could have interpreted these signs any way she desired. It is her strong faith and her consent to God's will that keeps her on the path to heaven.

I wonder how many times we are sent angels in the form of a patient spouse, a caring family member, or loving child, who may also cause us great stress or anxiety on any given day, but refuse to see them as such? Is it angels from above, or wise men from afar that we need to indicate that we are on the right path? I think it is an abiding faith in our heavenly father, and consent to His will, which will enable us to see the angel or wise man in those around us - heaven sent indeed.

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Katherine said...

Sometimes when life throws you fastballs, it's hard to have good faith. Almost like, why would God let these things happen?

I remember Popeweek, when I was at the hospital. We (my fellow nurses and doctors and techs) were watching the Pope on tv, since we were all working that week and couldn't see him in any way other than television. I remember the night that he came to the US, we had 2 absolutely horrible codes. I watched a very good friend of mine die in a horrible way. I think if I hadn't seen the Pope, heard his words, I would have completely lost it and have been unable to run to the second code.

The Pope, as someone of Christ, gave me strength. Christ himself gave me the strength to do my job that night. Sometimes we need people of Christ, angels, priests, the Pope, whoever, to help us get that faith. Of course, I'm still fairly young so I'm open to opinions on this one.

At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fran- I have thought experiences with some people and even certain circumstances to be Heaven sent- just not always at the times when I was most looking for some guidance. During those times, sometimes things are strangely silent. I'm coming to think silence must also serve a purpose. Maybe the silence is there to tell me I have answers and am stronger than I think. Maybe it's to remind me that I don’t need to be strong and I should reach out- I don't know. Funny thing happened- I was feeling pretty blue about some events concerning friendships, some quite close. I was really disappointed in what I perceived as a lack of care and concern. Out of the blue I received a card from someone I haven't spoken to in years. He didn't know (or I can't see how he'd know) what's been going on my life recently. Anyway, he sent me a card with the Footprints poem on it. Inside it was blank and he wrote, "You're one of the strongest people I know. I hope that you remember that you don't need to be." It blew my mind! Then today, I get a call (from someone else) and proceed to take steps towards opening myself in a different way to people with whom previously I would not. Divine markers- yes, I think that there are. Maybe I just need to ask to see/experience them more often.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 6:16 - Exactly!

At 5:31 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

The composer Peter Lutkin used the the first reading as the text in his one-and-only well-known choral work. Here is one performance I found online:

This benediction was used for many years at Northwood High School, before God was kicked out of public schools. Although it's been more than 25 years since I've sung this piece, I still know the alto part, and it's one of my favorites.

At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is unrelated to this post, but…I've been curious about the meaning of a "good confession" for some time. There are articles on the internet that refer to; "How to Make a Good Confession". I'm sure there are little handouts that describe the steps to making a good confession.

I understand that there is a protocol or format to confession. I also understand that all sins are not equal - some are mortal, some are venial. On the other hand, all sin is equal in that it is wrong. If a person has basically followed the format; i.e., examined their conscience, been honest with self and confessor, has true sorrow for their sin(s), desires not commit sin(s) again, verbalizes some form of the Act of Contrition, receives absolution and completes their assigned penance, wouldn't that make for a good confession?

If one can make a good confession, can one make a bad confession as well?

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was listening to an interview of a Palestinian man living in Gaza. He was understandably shaken by the current happenings, but he gave an interview that transcended his fear and his words were poignant. He talked about what the overwhelming majority of Palestinians want- a safe place to live, the ability to gainfully provide for their families, education for their children and the ability to worship. I believed him. I believe that most people want peace, not war, because it makes sense. We all basically want the same things no matter our culture, ethnicity or location. Please pray that no more innocent lives are lost on both sides of this conflict and that somehow the all find a way to peace.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve a confession- I don’t bring all of my children to Mass every Sunday. I bring the older children but often leave the younger ones behind. I rationalize it by saying to myself, “If the church expected me to have them in Mass, then why do they have child care available during Mass?” Ironically, my youngest comes with me to daily Mass and is perfectly fine to sit, but daily Mass is half the amount of time, and that extra 30 minutes is l-o-n-g to my three year old (and even longer to her mother)! In truth, I imagine even those in child care benefit from the experience of regular Sunday outings to church even if they don’t participate in the Mass. So today, I started early. I originally planned to be at the 10:00 Mass, but we weren’t all ready by then- so 11:30 it is.

Sunday Mass is a large investment of time for someone with a big family, but that’s what it is- an investment. I think we’ve all now learned that wise investments are about a slow and steady gain over the long term, and that’s what I’ll think about in these Sunday morning hours. However, I will allow myself one moment to bemoan the slow part- ugh!


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