Here is my homily from Jan. 1, 2016, Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
(Sorry for the bad audio quality! Scroll below for a rough text of the homily.)
Readings: Numbers 6.22-27; Psalm 67; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21 ( See the readings at usccb.org)
When God came here, born as a baby, he did so in a very gentle way. God didn’t force his way into the world that he created. Instead, he asked if he could come. He asked a woman who was completely free from all sin. And Mary, that young woman, likely a teenager, full of freedom and grace, said yes. She said yes to the question of God, and the world has been changed forever.
That’s why this day is so important in the life of the Church. Mary had an essential role in God’s plan for salvation. Mary is the model disciple. If we want to know how to live as a follower of Jesus, we need to look to her. As the model disciple, Mary was the very first one to receive Jesus and to share him with the world. Let me just briefly reflect on those two things.
First, Mary received Jesus into her life, into her very being. That’s meant for all of us. Jesus offers himself to us, in all gentleness. He longs to enter our hearts to heal, to fix what’s broken, and to bring us his life forever. So, as Mary said yes to the Angel — let it be done to me according to your word — so may we say yes to the Lord, in a new way this year.
But how can we do that? How do we say yes to the Lord? Look to Mary’s example! Over and over again in the gospel — including today — Mary is seen to be pondering the Lord in her heart. Reflecting. Praying. We need to do the same, even if just for a few precious moments in the day — to ponder, to be with God in prayer. We say our yes in prayer, even by fighting for our prayer when so many things want to draw away from it. Prayer is the air we breathe as Christians. Mary ponders; she prays. And she prays for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. We give our yes in prayer.
We also give our yes to God by how we live. Mary was without sin and full of grace. Her whole life was a profound “Yes” to God. So we should strive to be without sin, and when we fall down, we need to seek the mercy of God, especially in this Year of Mercy. Mary was completely free for God, completely without the sin that blocks us from God. She is our model of freedom.
Mary received Jesus. Mary then shared him with the world, and the world has never been the same. This makes Mary the model disciple. Jesus, God in the flesh, is the greatest gift we have ever known, because in him we find life. Once we realize that and say Yes to him, we can’t help but share him. Everything in us aches for him to be known! This is the fundamental mission of the Church — to share Jesus and make disciples! Mary was the first one to do that. So we can turn to her as our model and ask for her prayers.
As we start a new year, it’s a great time for us to get a fresh start and to renew our yes to Jesus.
Let me end with a prayer from Pope Francis, from his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium:
Mary, Virgin and Mother, you who, moved by the Holy Spirit, welcomed the word of life in the depths of your humble faith: as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One, help us to say our own “yes” to the urgent call, as pressing as ever, to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast, pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are, that she may never be closed in on herself or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us.
We’d love to have you at Mass! Mass times at Holy Spirit Parish in the summer are: Saturday, 5pm; Sunday, 10am, 12 noon, and 7pm.