Mary,Mother of God Numbers 6:22–27; Galatians 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21
Fifty thousand times Mary is not only the Mother of God but also our mother.
On the afternoon of October 12, 1972, a chartered Fairchild F-227 was flying a Uruguayan rugby team from Montevideo to Santiago, Chile. Forty-five passengers were on board.
As the plane headed across the Andes, it developed trouble. Suddenly it started to lose altitude and descend rapidly.
Minutes later it crashed into deep snow and broke into several pieces. Incredibly, 28 young men survived.
Some of the boys had on school jackets. Others were dressed only in shirt-sleeves. None were dressed for the subzero weather. And few suitcases with extra clothing could be found.
As night closed in, the 28 survivors huddled together in a broken section of the plane.
On the eighth day, search parties from Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay abandoned their efforts to locate the crashed plane. This news reached the survivors over the plane’s radio, which one of the boys had restored to operation.
The crash victims now realized that if they were to survive, it would have to be on their own.
In the next few days, 12 more boys died. This placed the number of survivors at 16.
At this point the 16 remaining boys made an important decision.
They decided to hold nightly prayer services in the shell of the plane. Around nine o’clock, when the moon dropped below the mountain, they would stop all talking and one of the boys would begin the rosary.
The nightly prayer sessions became a tremendous source of strength for the boys. Some boys who weren’t particularly religious began to experience a remarkable awareness of God’s presence during the prayer sessions.
For example, there was a boy named Arturo. He was a rather sullen person. Even his own family found him withdrawn and hard to communicate with. One night Arturo surprised everyone by asking to lead the prayers. As he prayed, he spoke with such deep feeling that the others were struck with a new affection for him.
After the prayer ended, everyone was silent. Only Arturo could be heard weeping softly. Why are you crying? someone asked. Because I feel so close to God, Arturo replied.
Days inched into weeks. Finally, in the eighth week, the weather began to break. Two of the strongest boys agreed to try to descend the mountain for help.
The going was extremely difficult. They were tied together by a nylon cord. One bad slip and both would go tumbling down the mountain. One boy began a continuous dialogue with God. He had seen the movie Fiddler on the Roof, and remembered that Tevye prayed this way. “God,” he said, “you can make it tough; but please don’t make it impossible.”
Nine days later the two boys made it down. Within hours, army helicopters flew to the top of the mountain to rescue the remaining 14 boys.
The story of these 16 boys is an appropriate one for today’s feast.
For the 16 boys gave much credit to Mary for helping them survive those 70 days. By actual count, they had repeated the phrase “Holy Mary,Mother of God” over 50,000 times in their prayers.
During those 70 days on the mountain, the 16 boys experienced that Mary was not only the Mother of God but also their mother. The birth of Jesus was a spiritual rebirth for the human race. And so, in a true sense, Mary is the spiritual mother of the human race. Paul expresses this great mystery this way in today’s second reading:
When the right time finally came, God sent his own Son. He came as the son of a human mother and lived under the Jewish Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might become God’s sons. Indeed, when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she gave birth to a new human race as well. And so Mary is not only the Mother of God but our own mother as well.
Because Mary is our mother, she is a powerful advocate for us in heaven. To ignore Mary’s motherly concern for us is to ignore God’s gift of her motherhood to us.
And this leads us to the New Year.
A new year is a time of new hope. A new year is a time of new life. A new year is a chance to begin again.
Last year is past and over. This year is beginning and lies ahead. It is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to God.
When we think of it, it is appropriate that we should celebrate the Feast of Mary the Mother of God on the first day of the new year. For it reminds us that because of Mary’s motherhood, you and I have been given new life. We have been given new hope. We have been given a chance to start over again.
If we are looking for a New Year’s resolution, we might do no better than follow the example of the 16 boys on the mountain.
We, too, might make the decision they made. We, too, might decide that starting today we will make prayer an important part of our life in the days ahead.
If prayer is already a part of our life, we might resolve to try to make it an even richer experience. And one way to do this is to do what the 16 boys did on the mountain. It is to seek Mary’s help in our prayers.
If we do this, we can be confident that we will experience her help, just as they did.
Let’s end our reflection on this Feast of Mary the Mother of God the way the 16 boys ended their prayer session each night on the mountain by reciting the Salve Regina.
To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you we direct our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Be merciful to us, loving advocate, Virgin Mary, and after this our exile, how us your son, Jesus.
Series II Mary,Mother of God Numbers 6:22–27; Galatians 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21
The water lily The Church teaches that Mary was conceived without sin, was a virgin all her life, was taken to heaven body and soul, and merits the title Mother of God.
Apriest was giving a retreat to some college students in Chicago. One afternoon one of the students came into the priest’s room to talk.
The conversation eventually drifted to a discussion of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Suddenly the student turned to the priest and said, “Would you like to hear a poem I wrote about Mary?”
The priest said, “I’d love to hear it.”
The student flipped open a small spiral notebook and read. The poem went something like this:
Today I saw a water lily growing in a pond. It had the most beautiful color of yellow I’d ever seen.
The lily a precious treasure was unconcerned about whether anyone noticed its astounding beauty.
As I sat there, watching it unfold its petals noiselessly, I thought of Mary, pregnant with Jesus.
She, too, was a precious treasure. She, too, was unconcerned about whether anyone noticed her astounding beauty.
But to those who did, she shared a secret. Her beauty came not from herself, but from the Jesus life unfolding its noiseless petals within her.
This poem underscores the reason for celebrating today’s feast. It’s not to honor Mary in some isolated way, but to honor her because she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.
It’s not accidental that the Church’s official teaching about Mary is summed up in four solemn definitions: first, that she was sinless; second, that she was a virgin; third, that she was taken bodily to heaven; and fourth, that she is the Mother of God.
The last teaching, of course, is the key one. The other three her immaculate conception, or sinlessness, her perpetual virginity, and her assumption all stem from the fact that she was chosen to be the Mother of God.
A brief explanation will show how this is so. First,Mary was immaculately conceived without sin for one reason: to prepare her to bear the Son of God.
Second,Mary was a virgin for one reason: to make her a unique vessel to bear a unique treasure, the body of Jesus. Mary conceived this unique treasure, not by human intervention, but by divine intervention. She conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
Finally,Mary was taken bodily to heaven for one reason: because she was sinless. And because she was sinless, she was immune from the penalty of sin, bodily death, and corruption.
And so Mary’s conception, her virginity, and her assumption are all related to the fact that she is the Mother of God.
As the student said in the poem, Mary’s beauty came not from herself but from the Jesus life she bore.
But it would be wrong for us to stop here. We must go further and point out that Mary cooperated perfectly with God’s gift.
One way she did this was by her life of prayer. Consider these examples.
When the angel announced to Mary that she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit, Mary’s response was to pray.
Her prayer was a prayer of surrender. She said to the angel, “[M]ay it happen to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and was told that the child in Elizabeth’s womb “jumped with gladness” at her approach, Mary’s response was to pray.
Her prayer was a prayer of praise to God. She said:
“My heart praises the Lord. . . . His name is holy. . . . He . . . has come to the help of his servant Israel. He has remembered to show mercy to Abraham and to all his descendants forever!” Luke 1:46, 49, 54–55
When the shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the angel had said about Jesus’ birth, Mary’s response was to pray.
Her prayer was a prayer of contemplation. Luke says in today’s gospel, “Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them.” Luke 2:19
When Jesus said to Mary in the Temple, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 Mary’s response was to pray.
Again, her prayer took the form of contemplation. Again, Luke says she “thought deeply about them.” Luke 2:51
Finally, when Mary noticed that the young married couple at Cana had run out of wine at their wedding feast, her response was to pray.
Her prayer was a prayer of petition, asking Jesus to help the young couple out of their embarrassment. (John 2:3)
These examples of Mary’s prayerfulness give us some insight into how she cooperated with God’s gifts. The practical message of today’s feast is obvious. We should imitate Mary and cooperate with God’s gifts, just as she did.
God has given us health; God has given us freedom; God has given us talents; God has given us friends; God has given us faith; God has given us the promise of eternal life.
Just as Mary responded generously to the gifts God gave her, so we should respond generously to the gifts God gave us.
If we are looking for a New Year’s resolution, we could do no better than to resolve to imitate Mary’s prayerfulness during the year ahead. Let me close by repeating over you the 4,000-year-old blessing of Aaron that is found in today’s first reading:
May the LORD bless you and take care of you; May the LORD be kind and gracious to you; May the LORD look on you with favor and give you peace.
Series III Mother of God Numbers 6:22–27; Galatians 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21
Mary God’s mother and our mother.
God sent his Son as the son of a human mother, so that we may become God’s children. Galatians 4:4–5
An elderly woman let’s call her Granny was puttering around in her house. She heard a knock at the door.
When she opened it, she was surprised. There was a boy of about ten with a very dirty face.
He seemed a bit nervous, so Granny invited him to sit down on the porch and talk.
She began by asking his name and if he was hungry. He said his name was Donald, and, yes, he was very hungry.
Granny went inside and brought back a big piece of cake and a soft drink. She also brought along a washcloth to clean up Donald’s dirty face.
How did you get so dirty?” she asked. Donald explained that a big kid had pushed his face down into the mud.
Granny felt sorry for him and said, “Look, Donald, now that we are friends, if that big kid does that again, you come to me and we will talk about it. Okay?”
Donald said, “That’s what the other lady said, too.”
Granny said, “What other lady?” Donald replied, “The one standing on top of the rock pile in your backyard.”
“Oh, you mean Mary, the mother of Jesus. I’m glad you mentioned her, Donald. She’s everybody’s mother, you know. She loves us and wants to help us.”
Donald replied, “Then it’s okay for me to come over and talk with her in your yard?” “Of course it is!” Granny said. “You can talk with her any time you wish.”
Donald smiled, stood up, bounced down the porch steps, and ran around the house to the backyard.
Granny picked up the empty dish and the soft drink bottle and carried them back into the house.
As she put them in the kitchen sink, she couldn’t resist taking a peek out the window to see what Donald was doing.
There he was, standing before Our Lady, talking and gesturing with his hands. When he finished, he hugged the statue and kissed it.
Granny said later, “I’m not claiming that Mary actually talked with my little friend, but then, again, who am I to say.”
As Catholics, we have always believed that Mary can and does speak to us, especially if we listen with the heart. Retold from Helen Sudicky in Northwest Indiana Catholic. Reprinted in Catholic Digest, July 1994
The story of Donald is especially fitting for today’s feast of the Mother of God.
For, as Granny told Donald, Mary is everybody’s mother. She became our spiritual mother when she became the mother of Jesus.
For when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she also gave birth, spiritually, to a whole new human race.
Referring to this great mystery, Saint Paul says in today’s second reading:
God sent his own Son . . . as the son of a human mother . . . so that we might become God’s children.
And Vatican II says:
By his incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church
In other words, because Jesus united himself to us spiritually, Mary became our spiritual mother, as well. Let’s turn now to the New Year. A new year is a time of new life. A new year is a time of new hope. A new year is a chance to begin again.
It is fitting, therefore, that the Church should choose January 1 as the feast of Mary the Mother of God.
For by Jesus’ birth into the human race through a human mother, we have been given a new life, new hope, and a chance to begin again.
And so, if you’re still shopping around for a New Year’s resolution, let me make a suggestion.
You could not do better than to resolve to do what Donald did; namely, to take serious the truth of our faith, that Mary is, indeed, our mother.
Therefore, she is someone who wants to develop a warm, personal relationship with each one of us.
One, simple, first-step way to begin is to make the Hail Mary a fervent, everyday prayer in the year ahead.
For this prayer celebrates the moment when Mary became the Mother of God and, therefore, our spiritual mother, also.
And so today’s feast refreshes our memory on an important truth of our faith that we may have forgotten. It is this: Mary is our mother. She is someone who wants to relate to us. She is someone who wants to help us. All we need to do is to open our heart to her.
Let us close with a prayer that Catholics have prayed for centuries:
Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, and sought your intercession was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, we turn to you,
O Virgin of virgins our Mother. To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, do not turn away from us, but in your mercy hear and answer us. Amen.