The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
Jan. 1, 2020
The Book of Numbers 6:2-17
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6 and 8
The Gospel of Luke 2:16-21
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
Today is the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God. Now, when I, and I am sure many others, hear the word ‘solemnity’ I do not think of a joyous celebratory occasion. I think of a solemn occasion like a funeral, a wake or some sort of formal recognition of a somber, or solemn, event. An example of what I think a solemnity would represent is the 9/11 attack, or the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, or the allied forces June 6, 1944 D-day invasion of Europe. Thousands and thousands of lives were lost in all those attacks. In the first days of the D-day invasion so many lives were lost that it is said that the sand of the beaches of Normandy were stained red from the blood of the fallen. Those sacrifices were made to rescue the citizens of Europe from the tyranny and genocide being conducted throughout Europe by the Nazi’s. The word ‘solemnity’, to me at least, did not bring up the idea of something to celebrate.
The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God, has to be a joyful, not solemn, occasion. Right? After all, we celebrate all that she did. Her whole life was in the service of God. It was because of her faith and trust in the word of God, relayed to her by an angel, that she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus Christ, The Savior of the World.
So I had to look up the official definition of the word ‘solemnity’. And it is ‘1 : formal or ceremonious observance of an occasion or event; 2 : a solemn event or occasion; and 3 : a solemn condition or quality’ . So while the word solemn is in two of the three possible definitions in this case the definition that applies is the first ‘formal or ceremonious observance of an occasion or event.’ The question about Mary is which event, or events, in her life are we celebrating or commemorating today? How could we chose which one, among her many examples of faith and motherhood, to celebrate? We cannot choose because there are so many. Today is a celebration of all the things Mary did.
It begins with her Immaculate Conception. God chose her at the very beginning, before she was conceived, to be the woman who would give birth to the infant Jesus. He selected her, and in doing so, kept her soul from the stain of original sin. That was so the mother of Jesus would give birth to Jesus without the stain of original sin. A perfect human mother without sin for a perfect human Son without sin. He is God, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Trinity. God cannot sin. Jesus was born to share in our humanity. That humanity allowed Him to die for us as a human and redeem us from sin.
At the beginning, when we first hear of Mary, we are taught about the Annunciation. Mary is a young teenage girl betrothed to Joseph. She is visited by the Angel Gabriel and is told God’s plan for her. She is to have a child. She asks the angel how that can happen since “she does not have relations with man.” The angel replies that she will conceive the child through the power of the Holy Spirit and she will name the child Jesus. And she simply replies okay “I am the hand maid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.” This is just the first example we see of her unfailing faith in, and acceptance of, the word of God. Then we see that same example of faith in Joseph who is betrothed to be her husband. Joseph planned to quietly divorce Mary because she was pregnant with- he thought- another man’s child. Instead, the angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him not to do so, that Mary is pregnant through the Holy Spirit and they will have a son and name him Jesus. Joseph knows the name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ which means ‘to deliver, rescue, save, salvation.’ Joseph follows Mary by accepting the words of the Lord relayed through the angel. He also demonstrates unfailing faith. He and Mary become the human father and mother of Jesus.
Next we hear of a pregnant Mary who goes to see her relative, Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant. As Mary arrives the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, who is John the Baptist, leaps for joy while Elizabeth cries out “Why is that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me?” Only God could have given them that knowledge. Mary exudes a certain holiness, a spirituality, a glow which is apparent to Elizabeth and the child in her womb. That is the cause for their joy. It could not be easy being pregnant back then without ultrasounds, prenatal checkups or hospitals in which to give birth. Mary gave birth in a stable. Even with the modern facilities and technology available today to assist in birth, the nine months preceding birth and the labor to deliver a child, are still the same since the beginning of time. The challenges are still there. It is the woman, the mom, who, with God, brings that child into the world just like Mary did with Jesus. She gave Him His humanity the same way moms do with their babies today.
I love seeing a pregnant mom, with her first child, or her fifth child, the number does not matter. What matters is that all moms should have that same glow that Mary had. They share the joys and trials of pregnancy the same way Mary did. She may have had morning sickness like they may have. Only a mother can relish in the knowledge that only they, in accordance with God’s creation of human sexuality, can bring a new life, a new miracle, into the world. Mary was human, a special one yes, but still human and she gave birth the same way a mother does today. It is not Jesus, or John the Baptist, in the womb of today’s moms, but it is still a God given miracle. That child in their womb is as important to them as Jesus was to Mary and John the Baptist was to Elizabeth.
Mary, and Joseph also faced challenges that parent’s today face. We worry about our children, their safety and their friends. It gets worse as they get older, start to drive and go off to college. We are still their parents, we still love them and their safety is always a concern. We trust that we have raised them to do the right thing, be careful and safe. I am sure Mary and Joseph did the same and yet, on their return travel home from Jerusalem after Passover, they experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. Jesus was missing from the group of travelers. They went looking for Him and after three days they find Him in the temple. He had thrown out the buyers and sellers and overturned the tables of the money changers. He told them that it was His house and it is a house of prayer that they had turned into a den of thieves. Mary and Joseph discovered Him in the temple and scolded Him. He turned to them and asked why they were surprised that he was at the house of His father. And then he left with them as an obedient child would.
Next we see Jesus perform His first public miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. He and Mary are guests at the wedding. The hosts run out of wine. Mary intercedes with Jesus and tells Him of the situation. He asks her what she expects Him to do because it is not yet time for His public ministry. She turns to the wait staff and instructs them to do whatever He says to do. Jesus tells them to fill the jugs with water and take them to the headwaiter who tastes it and proclaims it is the finest wine of the night. Jesus could not say no to Mary, His mother. He performed His first public miracle by changing the water into wine. We experience that same miracle at every Mass when the Priest consecrates the bread and wine, transubstantiating them into the Body and Blood of Christ. We are the wedding guests when we ask Mary to intercede for us in the Hail Mary when we pray “…pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” That is such a strong prayer to Mary for her help.
I am sure that you have all heard the term ‘Hail Mary’ referring to a long pass in a football game often on the last play of a half or the game to try and score points. Are you aware the term originated from a touchdown pass by Roger Staubach, a Catholic and QB for the Dallas Cowboys? He threw a last second 50 yard winning TD pass to Drew Pearson in the 1975 NFC conference championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. When reporters asked Staubach what he was doing when he threw that pass he said “a Hail Mary.” I doubt that is the reason that pass was caught, but it is the reason for the name of that pass. We too often pray to Mary asking her to intercede for us when we feel we are all out of time and need something like a miracle pass.
Mary endured a mother’s pain as she watched her son, the Son of God, be sentenced to death, tortured and forced to carry His cross to His own crucifixion. Then she watched Him die. And she suffered, as a loving mother would, the death of her human son. That death is why Jesus became human and died. That death brought us all a reward. Through the death of Jesus we are now able, at the time of our death, to share in the divinity of Christ.
Mary is the example of a perfect mother. She rejoiced in her child, she parented him as any mother would their child. She helped him when needed and he obeyed her as a good son would. When she said yes to the angel she did not know what would happen next. I suspect she and Joseph were like most of us with our first child. It is trial and error to get things right and mistakes are made. But we learn from those mistakes. And we learn what not to panic about. The other day as the school was letting out I was walking across the parking lot. I saw a mom getting out of her car and getting a toddler out of his car seat. He walked across the lot holding her hand. Safe and secure as mom’s make us feel. He had a lollipop which fell. He immediately scooped it up with his free hand and put it right back in his mouth. I told the mom the five second rule was in effect meaning that nothing bad could happen to the lollipop in the five seconds it might have been on the ground. She laughed and said no worries. This was child number three so she was not going to stress about a lot of things especially a lollipop hitting the ground. She was not going to worry about the small things. We do not hear of Mary worrying about small things with Jesus either. She looked at the bigger picture just as the mom in the parking lot did.
Today’s Solemnity of Holy Mary, the Mother of God, is a celebration of her faith in God.. The acceptance by a young girl to words spoken by an angel enabling us to be saved. May we all emulate Mary in our faith and love for our children. And it is not just a mother’s responsibility to raise a child after they are born. We do not hear much of Joseph but we know he was the earthly father. He joined Mary in the search for Jesus finding Him at the temple. He was a carpenter and would have taught Jesus the skills of carpentry. We know that Joseph was a good Jew. He had faith and he would have practiced it with Mary and Jesus in the traditions of Jewish law. That is what we are called to do as mothers and fathers. We are called to know and practice our faith. We are to be the first teachers of our children especially in matters of faith.
May God bless you, your families and your friends on this New Year’s Day and all of 2020.