Archive for January, 2014

Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MXIV

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God             MXIV

Image of Mary, Untier of Knots

(The Shepherds) made known the message
    that had been told them about this child . . .
    and Mary kept all these things,
    reflecting on them in her heart.

Today we see our Blessed Mother keeping and reflecting on all that the Shepherds told her concerning her child. And what did they tell her?

Be not afraid, the Angel said, the child will banish all fear.
His birth is Good News, His birth will bring great joy,
and this Good News and this Great Joy will be offered to all people.

The Angel also said that this child is the Savior,
that He is the Christ, the promised Messiah of God’s people
and even more than this, He is the Lord, God Incarnate.

And then when the Angel was finished speaking, thousands of angels appeared to the shepherds, praising God the Father for sending His Son into the world.

As Christmas came and went, and a new year began for her and for the world, Mary kept reflecting, over and over again, each and every day, on these things the shepherds told her about her child.

According to Scripture Scholars, a better translation would be that Mary kept with concern these things, as if she believed that the words the Shepherds told her were going to be of vital importance for her in the days to come.

May we too, like Mary, keep the words of the Shepherds in our hearts as we go into this new year of grace, 2014.

Whatever this new year holds for us and for our world, if we keep with concern the fact that Jesus is with us, and that nothing in this world should make us fearful, then joy and peace will remain with us this whole year through.

But before we start a New Year with Jesus and Mary, its important also to reflect on this past year, and reflect on the many ways Jesus and Mary have blessed us and our parish these past twelve months.

It’s been kind of an exciting year in many ways, as far as our faith goes. For the first time in 700 years, the Pope resigned. For the first time ever, a Jesuit became Pope, and took a name no Pope ever took.  We ended a year of faith in the Church, and on a more local and personal level, I became the Very Reverend Dean of Woonsocket Cumberland and Lincoln, the youngest Dean in the Diocese (I call myself the “Deano Bambino”), and I started a new 6 year term as Pastor of St. Josephs.

But that’s what God did in the world. We should also reflect on what God did in our personal life – how did we encounter Jesus this past year? How did I grow in my faith this past year, how didn’t I grow in it? Its important I think to take 5 or 10 minutes thinking about all this.

As today’s feast in a special way honors Mary, I thought I would end my homily talking about a new title of Mary that became widely known this past year due to the election of our new Pope.  For the past 30 years, Pope Francis has had a devotion to Mary under the title of Mary, Untier of Knots. The devotion has spread throughout Argentina and Brazil apparently through him even before he became Pope.

The devotion has a very interesting history to it.  In the mid 1600s, there was a married couple in Germany that were having serious problems in their marriage, and were on the verge of getting divorced.  The husband sought counseling from a Jesuit priest, and on the fourth visit with him, the priest went before an image of Mary with the silk ribbon which was used in the couple’s wedding ceremony (tied their arms together).

The priest had put knots in the ribbon, and holding it up before Mary, he ceremoniously untied the knots and said “With this act, I raise the bonds of matrimony, and untie and smooth out all knots”.  As he untied and smoothed out the knot, the ribbon miraculously became pure white, and the couple’s marriage was saved.

Well, there grandson years later became a priest, and he commissioned a painting which is now venerated as Mary, Untier of Knots.  It’s got one angel on the left handing her ribbons all knotted up, and Mary in the middle, calmly and peacefully untying the mess of ribbon, and another angel on her right handing an untied ribbon to the person looking at the painting.

Pope Francis saw the painting in the 1980s when he was a Jesuit priest studying in Germany, and brought the devotion back to Argentina where it spread rapidly.

Whether it will spread in America is up to the Holy Spirit, but certainly the devotion brings out a great truth that, when our lives get all tied up in knots for whatever reason, and we can’t seem to straighten out our lives, but instead seem to be getting more and more entangled, Mary is the one who can untie those knots and smooth out our lives.

I will end with an abridged form of the prayer to Mary, Untier of Knots:

“Virgin Mary, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need . . . cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary . . . I entrust into your hands my life. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and through the intercession of your Son Jesus, take into your hands today this knot. [Mention request here]
I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope. O my Lady, you are my consolation, my strength, and, with Christ, the freedom from my chains. Hear my prayer; Keep me, guide me, protect me, be my refuge! Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us.”