SUNDAY HOMILY: Christmas Through the Eyes of Mary
The external aspects of our Christmas celebration only make sense if we keep our attention fixed on who it is that we are celebrating. Christmas is the birthday of Jesus.
This Sunday's gospel passage focuses our attention on the one central reality of Christianity: that the Word, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, became man and dwelt among us. On the last Sunday of Advent, the Church allows us to contemplate this reality through Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Often when we attempt to get to know someone, it is always very helpful to know the person's mother. Fr. Romano Guardini once wrote: "Anyone who would understand the nature of a tree, should examine the earth that encloses its roots, the soil from which its sap climbs into branch, blossom and fruit. Similarly, to understand the person of Jesus Christ, one would do well to look to the soil that brought him forth: Mary, his mother (The Lord, p. 10).
Mary is a young, beautiful, pure and humble woman chosen before the beginning of time to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. This calling is announced to her by the Angel Gabriel who appears to her. Mary, although she has been chosen, could have said no to God's will; however, it is her profound love of God that allows her to say yes unconditionally. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1: 38).
It is clear that the mysteries of the Annunciation and the Incarnation indicate man's relationship with God. God is our creator and our relationship with him is through obedience to his will. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the most perfect embodiment of this relationship between God and man.
Through faith, she listens to the voice of God and freely submits her entire being to the plan of God over her life. The word obey comes from the Latin ob-audire which means to hear or listen to. It is Mary's faith, humility and simplicity that allow her to listen to God and to put his plan into practice.
Faith is our response to God. By the act of faith, we completely submit our intellect and our will, in fact, our entire being to God. This act of submission is rooted in love and freedom. The gift of faith allows us to experience already here on earth the promise of the beatific vision, although in an imperfect way.
Mary is the perfect model of someone who correctly lived out to its ultimate consequence the obedience of faith. This is why Saint Augustine once wrote, "Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ."
Nevertheless, sometimes people seem to have difficulty identifying with the example of the faith and fidelity of Mary. They have the impression that everything was very easy for Mary because she was conceived without Original Sin.
Not everything was clear for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Just as in any manifestation of the divine, there is always a profound moment of light followed by long and trying times of darkness. Mary was enveloped in the light of God's presence during the Annunciation. However this brilliance of clarity was followed by the night of faith. She fulfilled her unconditional yes within the many trials and difficulties of her journey towards eternity.
Mary's fidelity was heroic because her faith was heroic. In fact, as Romano Guardini writes, "Her faith was greater, more heroic than that of any other human being" (The Lord, p. 13).
After the Annunciation and the conception of Jesus in her womb, a series of terrible trials began.
First of all Joseph did not understand what was happening to Mary, and she had to cling to the promise that had already been made to her by the angel Gabriel: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God".
The trial did not come to an end until Joseph received his instructions in a dream: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1: 20).
As the first Christmas quickly approached, another trial came about because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. Where would the child be born?
Eight days after his birth, Simeon foretold the suffering that would always accompany Mary: ".and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2: 35).
Soon after these words were spoken, ...
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