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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Matthew’s account of the genealogy of the Lord is unusual for many reasons, but most notable among those reasons, and the reason it was chosen for Mass today is because it contained the name of five women. This might not seem all that amazing to us today, but back in Matthew’s day, genealogies almost never contained the names of women. So Matthew is clearly telling us something important by including their names.

The women mentioned include Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Four of them were women of the Old Testament and the last, of course, cooperated in bringing about the New Testament. Tamar was a childless widow whose brother-in-law, to whom she had been given in marriage after her husband’s death, refused to provide her with offspring. So she had to pretend to be a harlot and seduce Judah in order to have a child. Rahab actually was a harlot in Jericho. She hid and protected the spies of Joshua, so the Israelites protected her when they ambushed Jericho. Ruth was a daughter-in-law who cared so much for her mother-in-law that she accompanied her on a dangerous journey to Israel after her family died. Ruth is known for her devotion. Bathsheba was seduced by King David, who covered up the affair by arranging to have her husband Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. She became the mother of Solomon.

All of these women represent the struggle and the blessing the Israelites had with God and his salvation. Tamar represented the struggle to follow the law and to protect the widows, orphans and aliens as God intended. Rahab represented the giving of the land to the people Israel. Ruth represented the devotion and faithful love of the Lord. Bathsheba represented the struggle with faithfulness, and the blessing of repentance. 

And from all of these, we finally come to our Patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman whose faith and willingness to cooperate with God’s plan made possible the salvation of all the world. Today we celebrate her Nativity, the traditional date of her birth, exactly nine months having passed since her Immaculate Conception on December 8th. 

Every single birth is a sign of hope in our world, and therefore a cause for great celebration. Our world may be in a bad place, plagued by war, terror, and an actual plague, and dark from sin – both societal sin and our own personal sin. But birth brings joy because it is a sign of God’s wanting the world to continue to bring salvation to all people. Mary’s birth in particular stands out prominently among us because of the grace she received from God who chose her to be mother of His Son.

The Byzantine Church Daily Worship proclaims well the joy that we have on this feast of Mary’s birth: “Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is Queen and the Father’s Immaculate Bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse.” 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a Solemnity in the Church because, in a real sense, it is a matter of life and death.  Death is a reality in this world, and we see it all the time.  But, because Our Lord assumed his Holy Mother into heaven, we can see that death is not intended to be our enduring reality.  Indeed Our Lord brought his Mother to the fullness of heavenly joy, that joy which we all long to attain, that joy which we all have been promised.  That’s the truth that the Church gives us in the Preface to today’s Eucharistic Prayer.  It says this:

For today the Virgin Mother of God
was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and image 
of your Church’s coming to perfection…

In today’s Gospel, we hear the wonderful “Magnificat” prayer of Mary, which is part of the Church’s daily evening prayer.  Two incredible qualities of Mary come through in her prayer.  The first is joy.  She is one who not only allowed something incredibly unbelievable to be done in her, but allowed it with great joy.  That she did this with joy tells us something very important about who she was.  Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  Those who live with joy, true joy, do so because God is at work in them and God is at work through them.  Mary knew this from the moment the angel came to her.  The second quality we see in Mary’s prayer is humility.  She knew this wasn’t about her; this was about what God was doing in her and through her.  It wasn’t she that did great things, no, “the Almighty has done great things for me,” she tells us, “and holy is his Name!”

Mary had very humble beginnings, as we all know.  She wasn’t of a terribly well-to-do family, as far as we know, and she was a very young girl, probably around 14 years old.  Yet even in that humble state, she was called to do great things, or, more precisely, to let great things be done in her. In much the same way, many of us may not feel like spiritual masters, or like we have great knowledge of our faith.  But, we may very well be called to do things we think are too great for us. And that’s the truth, really.  When God calls us to something, it’s almost always too great for us.  But nothing is too great for our God, who can accomplish the redemption of the world with the cooperation of a humble 14-year-old girl.  The Almighty did great things for Mary, and the Almighty will do great things for us as well.

Having given birth to our Savior, Mary is also the Mother of the Church.  Her life is prophetic in the sense that it shows us what can and will happen to and for us who believe.  In her Assumption, we see that God does not intend death to be the last word for any of us.  Death no longer has power over us, because of the death and Resurrection of Christ.  In Mary’s Assumption, we know that we are not destined for death and corruption, we are destined for life in the world to come, where death and sorrow and pain no longer rule over us.  On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.  On that great day, the great joy that Mary experienced in the Assumption can be our great joy too, for all of us who believe, and for all of us who allow the Almighty to do great things in them.

On that great day, we can join the loud voice in heaven and say,

Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Christmas Homilies

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s readings

And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

This is definitely the kind of reflection a mom would do. Saint Luke notes all throughout Jesus’ young life that Mary kept the events of Jesus’ life and reflected on them in her heart. At the visit of the shepherds, and again after finding Jesus in the temple, Mary kept those memories for later reflection. Maybe she understood them, or perhaps had to work them out later, but keeping them in her heart, she was able to ponder the Word. She got to savor those moments over and over; it shows us the joy of Mary’s heart as a mother.

This idea of Mary reflecting on these things in her heart almost reminds me of a kind of It’s kind of scrapbook of memories in her heart, and I found myself wishing during these Christmas days, that I could take a look at that scrapbook.  She had a first-hand view of how Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, and as Luke tells the story, her perspective of God’s work in the life of her family had to be incredible.

Mary’s reflection on the life of Jesus is really a model for us.  Keeping those events close to her and reflecting on them later is her way of reflecting on the Word of God.  Whether she understood them at the time or not,  she didn’t just live through the moment and move on.  Sadly, in our frantic-paced lives, we do that all too often.  But Mary went back to those events later in her life – even after the death and resurrection of Jesus – and came to a new understanding guided by the Holy Spirit.  And thank God she did that.  It’s probably her later reflection on those events that made the early Church Evangelist able to record them and pass them on to us.  I can just imagine Mary sharing those reflections with Luke and the other disciples.

We too, must reflect on the Word of God.  We have to put ourselves in the presence of the Story, and ponder it in our hearts.  If we’re confused by Scripture, we have Mary as our patron to help us reflect on that Word and come to understand it, guided as we are by the Holy Spirit.  But we also have her encouragement to keep those Scriptures in the scrapbook of our hearts, to keep coming back to them.  That’s the only way the Spirit can work on us and help us to come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Word of God, and in doing that, to come to a renewed and vibrant relationship with our Lord.  But we have to do that following the example of Mary’s reflective pondering, or just like everything else in our lives, we’ll fly through the moment and miss it.

In Advent, I encouraged all of us to take some quiet, reflective time to be with the Lord.  Today Mary shows us how to do that, pondering her God incarnate in her own arms.  Imagine that!  The Incarnation is definitely a mystery worth pondering!

If we would make a resolution for this new year, maybe it could be to follow Mary’s example.  Maybe we could set aside some time on a regular basis – even just those five minutes – to put ourselves in the presence of the Word of God.  And not just here at Mass, although that’s a good start.  But maybe in private prayer or even in an organized Bible Study – we have a few of them going on in our parish on a regular basis.  If we regularly open ourselves up to the Word of God, maybe we too could come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Scriptures; and a closer and more beautiful relationship with Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God.

Mary, mother of God the Word, help us to understand the Word as you did.  Help us to ponder the great mystery of the Incarnation and savor its joy every day. 

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God:
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Advent Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

Our Lady of Guadalupe

It’s so important to our spiritual lives that we be willing to be interrupted by the holy.  If we just keep doing what we’re doing, and never take notice of what God is doing, we miss out on some pretty wonderful experiences.  The apparitions of our Blessed Mother are holy interruptions, experiences that call our attention to what God is doing.

Appropriately enough, I think, we celebrate a second of Mary’s feasts in the space of just three days.  During Advent, we naturally turn our hearts in gratitude to Mary for her fiat that made possible our world’s salvation.  On Monday, we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Mary; today we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe in part because she is the patroness of all the Americas, and so once again, a special patron for us.

A Native American author of the sixteenth century describes the story of our Lady of Guadalupe in today’s Office of Readings.  He tells us of a Native American named Juan Diego, who was on his way from his home to worship on the hill of Tepeyac.  There he heard someone calling to him from the top of the hill.  When he got to the top of the hill, he saw a woman whose clothing shone like the sun.  She told him that it was her desire that a church be erected on the hill so that all could worship her son Jesus.  She sent him to the local bishop to plead that cause.

The bishop didn’t believe Juan Diego’s story and sent him away.  He returned to the hilltop to find the radiant Lady once again, and she told him to tell the bishop that she, the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, sent him.  Again the bishop did not believe, telling him that unless he had a miraculous sign, he would not believe the story.

At that point Juan Diego’s uncle became quite ill.  Juan then set out for the local church to have a priest come to anoint his uncle.  He purposely took a route around the hill at Tepeyac to avoid seeing the Lady and being detained, since the need for a priest was urgent.  But of course, she met him at the side of the hill and spoke to him again.  She assured him that his uncle had already been cured and sent him up the hilltop to find flowers of various kinds.  He got to the top of the hill to find many Castilian roses growing there, which was odd for that time of the winter.  He cut them and carried them down the hill in his tilma, a kind of mantle that he wore for warmth.  She sent him to the bishop bearing the miraculous flowers as proof.

He went confidently to the bishop and informed him that the Lady had fulfilled his request for a sign.  He opened up his tilma, the flowers fell to the ground, but the great miracle was that the inside of the tilma revealed the image of our Blessed Mother, in the same manner as Juan had seen her on the hill.   The bishop built the church, and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, as she had referred to herself, has grown ever since.  You can still see the tilma, still bearing the image of Mary, at the shrine in Guadalupe today.  That’s another miracle, since it should have deteriorated all these centuries later.

During Advent we are blessed to have the saints interrupt us with the holy, pointing the way to Jesus.  None of them does this more faithfully than his very own mother, and so we are blessed to celebrate her feast today.  May Mary our mother and the mother of God, lead us one day to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.

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Advent Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Advent is a season of anticipation: God’s promises echo through the Old Testament, and in these Advent days, we see those promises coming to fruition in exciting and world-changing ways.  Today’s feast is a glorious glimpse of that reality.

We are honored today to celebrate the patronal feast day of our parish and of our nation, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This, of course, celebrates Mary’s conception, not that of Jesus, which we celebrate on the feast of the Annunciation.  Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin.

This feast celebrates the belief that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.  This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was coming to fruition.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture.  In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall.  The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.  Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness.  God noticed that, and asked about it.  Of course, he already knew what was going on: they had discovered the forbidden tree and eaten its fruit.  They had given in to temptation and had grasped at something that was not God, in an effort to become their own god.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures.  God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way.  God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation.  Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation, or we would be in dire straits.  It all comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today.  Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection.  That is why St. Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.   In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder.  God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to them, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man.  He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin.  He was then to be born into our midst and to take on our form.  With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us.  Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God. 

Our celebration today is a foreshadowing of God’s plan for us.  Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us.  Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb.  Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day.  Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Today’s Gospel can be a confusing one, perhaps even a little difficult to hear.  It’s very disconcerting to see Jesus as being callous to his mother and not receiving her when she came to visit.  But our gut – or rather our faith – tells us that Jesus and Mary had a relationship that transcended that kind of thing.  It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t care about Mary; it’s just that he knew he really didn’t have to worry about her.  She had been filled with grace from the moment of her conception, and would never be without the benefit of that grace.

Theirs was a relationship in which Jesus instinctively knew that his mother was okay and he needed to attend more to the people he ministered.  And it is for that reason we celebrate Mary’s presentation today.  As with Mary’s birth, we don’t really know anything official about Mary’s presentation in the temple.  An unhistorical account tells us that her parents, Anna and Joachim, offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old.  This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless.

Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose.  It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary.  It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.  We celebrate Mary, full of grace from the moment of her conception and all throughout her life.

We pray the words of Mary in the Responsorial Psalm today: “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”  Mary was always aware of the amazing grace that sustained her throughout her own very difficult life-long mission.  We are graced like that too, and we celebrate that grace with Mary today.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God; that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

In every age of the world, people have needed hope.  Because in every age of the world, there has been unbelievable hardship.  There has always been war, and disease, and poverty, and oppression, and alienation, and all the rest.  There has always been sin, and broken relationships, and impure desires and that feeling of emptiness that hardens our hearts.  Evil has run rampant from the fall of humanity and ever onward. And the weight of all of that could be crushing – if we didn’t have hope.

And I don’t need to be abstract about this.  All we have to do is turn on the news or pick up a newspaper and see mass shootings all over our nation, violence in our cities, families broken apart, the flaunting of pro-abortion rhetoric among political candidates, and you could probably name still more.  In our own lives we have the illness and death of loved ones, family members alienating one another, loss of employment, and that’s just to name a few.  There’s no way we could live with all that – if we didn’t have hope.

And I don’t mean hope in the naïve sense.  I’m not going to tell you, “don’t worry – everything will work out all right” because, honestly, some things just don’t.  The hope that I think we can find in today’s Liturgy is the theological virtue that reminds us that this life is not all there is; this is not as good as it gets. Our readings remind us that there has been and still is incredible evil in this world, but evil doesn’t get the final say – not for Jesus, not for Mary, and not for us.  One look at the way things work in our world and in our lives could convince us that this has all been an unbelievable failure – if we didn’t have hope.

The tradition of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the very earliest days of the Church, all the way back to the days of the apostles. It was known that Mary had “fallen asleep” and that there is a “Tomb of Mary” close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven. The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay . . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”

The hope that we find in the doctrine of the Assumption is summed up in the Preface to today’s Eucharistic Prayer, which I will sing in a few minutes.  Listen to the beautiful words of that prayer:

For today the Virgin Mother of God

was assumed into heaven

as the beginning and image

of your Church’s coming to perfection

and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people…

The Church knows well that our pilgrim way would be filled with evil.  But the Church courageously believes that this world’s experience isn’t the beginning and end of our existence: we have much to look forward to in the life to come.  Our Savior himself foretold as much in John’s gospel when he said, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)  This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is our hope, and this is the hope that we celebrate today.

The reason the Church reveres Mary as much as she does is because Mary’s life is the icon of the Church. What is important for us to see in this feast is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.  That is our hope: our unbelievably gracious, completely unmerited, lovingly-bestowed hope.

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed. That is good news for us who have difficult lives or find it hard to live our faith. Because there are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.  We can and do hope in this salvation every day of our lives.  It’s what makes our lives livable; it’s what gives us the strength to keep on keepin’ on in the midst of so much difficulty.

Today’s readings can seem pretty fantastic, in the sense that we don’t know what to believe about them.  The reading from revelation has a dragon sweeping a third of the stars from the sky, and a child being caught up to heaven.  But really, I don’t think that’s too hard to grasp.  We have all been through things in our lives when it felt like a third of the stars had fallen out of the sky.  There is that evil dragon that seeks us out and wants to devour the hope that we have, but the child of that hope has been taken up to heaven, and we can go there one day too, if we believe, and repent, and cling to Christ who is our hope.

Mary’s song of praise in today’s gospel reading, which the Church prays every evening in Vespers, echoes the hope we have in this feast of the Assumption:

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children forever.

Life is hard.  It always has been, and probably always will be. But this life is not all there is. As we walk through this life on our pilgrim way to God’s kingdom, we walk always in the presence of our God who sees us, who notices our pain and sorrow, who grieves with us and laughs with us, who never lets go of us, and who gives us hope beyond anything we deserve. Where Mary has gone, we hope to follow.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies Saints

Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Grandparents of Our Lord

Today’s readings

We don’t know much, well anything really, about Saints Joachim and Anne. Even in the Gospels where the ancestry of Jesus is traced, nothing is really said about Mary’s family, so we don’t have records that tell us anything about who Mary’s parents were. Their names themselves are really sourced by legend written more than a century after Jesus died, but even so, they have been confirmed by revelations to saints throughout the ages.

The Church has always inferred that Joachim and Anne were heroic people, having given birth to a woman of great faith. Mary probably had learned her great reverence for God from them, perhaps had learned to trust in God’s plan from them. She knew the law and was a woman of prayer, and we can only surmise that had to come from her parents who had brought her up to love God and his commandments. The Psalmist today recalls God’s promise to David: “Your own offspring I will set upon your throne.”  Through the Blessed Virgin, God brought that promise to fruition.  Blessed are the eyes that saw that: through Mary, Joachim and Anne were certainly overjoyed at the nearness of salvation.

This feast helps me remember my own grandparents, whose faith and love are a part of me today. Their humor, their reverence for God, their love for people, all of that has become a part of who I am today. Maybe you too can remember some of the graces that have come from your own ancestors in faith. And for all these great people, along with Saints Joachim and Anne, we give thanks today.

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Blessed Virgin Mary Homilies

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today’s readings

In the twelfth century, some hermits lived on Mount Carmel in what is now northern Israel.  This was located near the fountain of Elijah.  By the thirteenth century, some called these hermits the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”  This rings especially true with our Gospel reading today, in which Jesus tells us that whoever does the will of the Father is “brother, and sister, and mother” to him.

This feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the traditional date in the year 1251 in which Our Lady gave the scapular to Saint Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites at the time.  He promoted the devotion to the scapular and so the Carmelites have been particularly connected with the Blessed Virgin ever since, and in fact, they played a prominent role in encouraging devotion to our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

In addition to Our Lady, the Carmelites are particularly connected to the prophet Elijah, who on Mount Carmel was able to embarrass the prophets of the so-called god Baal, later putting them to death, all four hundred or so of them!  This particularly enraged the queen Jezebel, whose determination to kill Elijah in retaliation was thwarted by the Lord, vindicating Elijah’s actions and confirming that Baal was no god at all.

And so, as the Carmelites give witness, we are all called to be brother and sister and mother to Jesus by devoting ourselves to following God’s will, and imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin for all of our endeavors and plans.  The Almighty has truly done great things for all of us, and holy is his Name. 

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Blessed Virgin Mary Christmas Homilies

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s readings

Today, on the octave day of Christmas, which we still celebrate as Christmas Day, we are blessed to remember the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We do this because we all know that Mary’s faith made possible our own lives of faith and even more wonderfully made possible the salvation of the whole world and everyone ever to live in it. She was the one, chosen by God, to see the Gospel come to life before her very eyes. She intimately beheld the Word, she held our God in her faithful and loving hands, treasuring each moment in her heart.

So Mary’s faith is a model for us, an goal which we disciples must strive to attain.  God’s call will often take us into unknown territory, as it did for our Blessed Mother, but in faith we are called to say “yes” to his plan for us anyway.  God’s call will often call for sacrifice and even sorrow in the short term, as it did for our Blessed Mother, but we are still asked to give all that we have.  Mary did that without a second thought or a moment’s regret.  How willing are we?  Can we take a leap of faith, make a fiat, and cooperate with God’s work in our lives and in the world?  We have no way of knowing where that might lead us; just like Mary, that might lead to heartache and sorrow; but just like Mary, it may lead to redemption beyond belief, beyond anything we can imagine.

Today the Church proclaims courageously that Mary is the Mother of God.  And let me tell you, this was a doctrine that came at great price.  People fought over whether a human woman could ever be the mother of God.  How would that even be possible? But the alternative, really, would be to insinuate that Jesus was not God.  We know that Jesus had two natures: human and divine.  Neither nature was subordinate to the other there was no separation or division or elevation of one nature at the expense of the other; they were both wrapped up intimately with one another, incapable of being divided.  So, because we clearly know that Mary was his mother, we say that Mary is the Mother of God.  And as theologians teach us, Mary is the Mother of God the Word according to his human nature.  She didn’t give birth to his divine nature; that was begotten by God.  She is not the mother of the First or Third Persons of the Blessed Trinity; she is the mother of the Second Person, God the Word.  Sister Sarah made us memorize all this in seminary, and every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly theologically courageous, I reflect on this doctrine and marvel at its beauty.

So, Mary is the Mother of God, but Mary is also the Mother of the Church, leading its members to her son Jesus and to faith in God.  She is mother of priests, caring for us in a special way and interceding for the faithful work of our calling.  She is the mother of mothers, interceding for them and showing them how to nurture faith in their children.  She is the mother of the faithful, showing us how to cooperate fully with God’s plan.  She is mother of Scripture scholars and those who just love the Scriptures, having seen the Word unfold before her and treasuring it in her heart.  She is the mother of disciples, having been the first of the disciples and the most dedicated of them all.  And she is the Mother of Mercy, who gave birth to our Savior and birth to our eternity.  She is the Mother of God, and our mother, and we cannot sing our Christmas carols without singing our thanksgiving for her.  We honor her faith and example today, and we ask for her intercession for our lives, for our families, for our Church and for our world.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.