Mary’s Faith (Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MMXIII 1/1/13)

Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MMXIII    1/1/13

Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

There was a lot for Mary to process as we would say today, a lot for her to reflect on, as God had done so much in her life over the past year.    May we too, like Mary, take time to reflect on all the ways God touched our lives in 2012.

One of the major events in our Church this past year was the opening of the Year of Faith, which began October 11, 2012, and will end November 24, 2013 on the Feast of Christ the King.

So this New Year’s Day, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, I thought I would speak a bit on Mary’s great Faith and how she can inspire us to grow in our Faith.

We all of course need faith in God in order to be saved and get to Heaven. But in God’s mysterious plan, God calls some of us to have more faith than others, the greater the persons vocation.
And when we read the Gospels, we see that Mary needed to have more faith than any other human being.

Mary’s faith in Christ began of course at the Annunciation.  In many way’s the Annunciation is like the story of Joan of Arc. When Joan was just a young peasant girl, living in a small village of France, the Archangel St. Michael appeared to her and told her to lead the French Army to victory over the British, who for almost 100 years had devastated France. The 17 year old Joan, acting on faith, went and did just that.

But Mary’s story is even more incredible: like Joan of Arc, she is this young woman in a tiny backwater town in northern Israel, when an Angel appears to her and announces that God wants her, not to save France, but the save the human race by becoming the mother of His only Son.

And as the saints tell us, Mary believed the Word in her heart before she conceived the Word in her womb.

Gabriel wasn’t only asking Mary “Will you do this?” He was also asking her “Do you believe God can do this?” Not only do you believe God can make a Virgin conceive, but more importantly, do you believe God will work through you?  Do you believe with all your heart that your Son Jesus will be the All Powerful God come to earth to save all people from their sins?”

Mary said that day to the Angel, and every day after that: “I do believe it: Be it done to me according to your word” And  once the Angel left, Mary didn’t need a pregnancy test, Mary had total faith that God’s Son was growing within her, and one day He would save the world, all because of her faith-filled “yes I believe” to God.

How about us: do you and I, like Mary, believe that God will work powerfully in and through us ordinary people living in this small city of Woonsocket, RI? Do we believe that if we have faith, Jesus will grow stronger within us with each passing day, and that this faith of ours will help reconcile people to God, even save people from eternal death?

But Mary’s faith journey, and her need for faith, was only just beginning at the Annunciation. Right from the start, her faith led her into trial after trial.

How much faith did Mary need when it appeared that Joseph was going to leave her? Or when, 9 months pregnant, she had to travel 75 miles by donkey to a strange, unfriendly town of Bethlehem?

Or how much faith did Mary need when she started going into labor in a cattle barn in the middle of the night? Or when Jesus is not even a few months born, and her family must flee into Egypt? And all the while, Mary is reflecting deeply on Simeon telling her that her son would cause her great heartache in life, and the gift of Myrhh, embalming spices given by the Magi.

Then in Egypt, Mary hears the terrible, shocking news that dozens of babies and children in Bethlehem had been slaughtered, all because of her Son, all because of her “yes” to God – the first glimpse at the Satanic hatred Jesus’ presence in the world would stir up.  What had Mary gotten herself into?

But throughout it all, even when she couldn’t understand, Mary never regretted embracing the faith, but knew all the trials and hardships were worth it to have Jesus in her life, and that God would somehow bring good even out of the senseless tragedies of life. May we imitate Mary in also embracing the trials and hardships that come from living by faith.

But probably an even greater test of faith confronted Mary on her return from Egypt.  After two years of great signs and wonders and high drama at Jesus’ birth, there follows thirty long monotonous years of ordinary, daily living in Nazareth.

For thirty years, Jesus lived and prayed and worked, day in and day out, in the same house as Mary. But except for that one isolated incident in the Temple at age 12, Jesus seemed in her eyes and everyone else’s eyes, to be just another good but ordinary Hebrew boy from Nazareth, destined to be a simple carpenter to the end of his life.

But throughout all those long mundane years, and even when her husband Joseph died in her and Jesus’ arms, Mary never doubted that Jesus her son was the all powerful God become man to save us from our sins.

Once again, how about you and I? Jesus, the All Powerful God, is with us, day in and day out, here in the Blessed Sacrament. Do we, like Mary, believe he is here with us, even in the ordinary events of our life?

And then, one day, when she least expected it, Mary arises one morning, and Jesus has his bags packed.  “where are you going, Jesus?” “Jordan River. Goodbye, Mother.”

And – He’s gone. From this point on, Jesus physically and emotionally detaches Himself more and more from Mary, and Mary more and more spiritually attaches herself to Jesus through her greater and greater faith in him.

She sees him next just briefly at Cana, at the wedding banquet. And from her home in Nazareth, she begins to hear people talking about all he is doing in the towns of Galilee, and reflects on what he is doing and saying in her heart.

He comes back once to his hometown to visit, and the people he grew up with try to kill him; and he never goes back again. Mary lives on alone for the next two years in Nazareth, now hostile to her and her son, with greater faith in Him than ever.

She and her relatives go visit him one day in Capernaum, and he says in front of everyone “Who is my mother? Those who follow God are my mother and sister and brother!” Words which certainly must have stung her emotionally, while at the same time increasing her faith in Him spiritually.

And then, the Passover comes around, and Mary as was her custom went down to Jerusalem to celebrate it. Her maternal instinct tells her that things are coming to a head.    And in the middle of the night, she gets the call that all parents dread, that her only Son has been arrested.

And as the morning comes, she learns that Jesus has been condemned to death.

Like Abraham, Mary’s faith didn’t waver as she walks up the hill of Calvary with her Son carrying the Wood he will be sacrificed on.

But unlike Abraham, whose test of faith ended when he received back his living, unharmed son that day on Mt. Moriah, Mary receives back the lifeless, bloody body of her son that Good Friday on Mt. Calvary.

Her Child of the Promise lay dead in a cold tomb; and his last words to her weren’t “I love you mom” or “Don’t worry, I’ll rise again” but rather his last words were “There is your son, he will take care of you now.”

But even in this final earthly detachment, this final crushing test of faith, Mary does not doubt or lose faith.  Her  faith instead rises higher than any human being has to that occasion, and clings closer than ever to Jesus in his suffering and death for the redemption of the world.

And when Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday, Mary’s faith is so strong that she believes Christ is risen even before she sees him.

As a matter of fact, the Gospels don’t record any appearance of the Risen Christ to His Mother. St. Ignatius said it wasn’t recorded because it was obvious Jesus would have appeared to her, and therefore it didn’t need to be recorded. But maybe there’s no record because Jesus didn’t appear to her, because His Mother’s faith was so strong He didn’t need to appear risen for her to be full of joy and total faith that He had Risen!

My brothers and sisters, as we begin this Year of Our Lord 2013 during this Year of Faith, may we entrust ourselves and our country to our Blessed Mother Mary.

It may well be that God will require more faith than ever from you and I and our whole world this New Year. It could be that this Year of Faith is providential, given to us by God to “get ready” cause we’re gonna need all the faith we can get.

May we, like Mary, rise to the occasion, and approach all the challenges this new year holds with firm Faith in Christ Her Son, so that we like Mary will rejoice when, after the trial of faith is over, Christ Rises more glorious than ever in our hearts and in our world.

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