Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. This is a very grand title indeed, one which is breath-taking in its scope. Indeed, it is hardly comprehensible that a human being could ever be the Mother of God. It sounds incredible and something entirely presumptuous.
And yet from the very earliest times this is what the Church has considered to be the entirely appropriate title for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There are two ways of looking at this. First, we could look at it from the bottom up as it were and think about the impossibility of Mary claiming this role. We would have to conclude that it would be unimaginable for a human being to claim maternity over the Son of God.
But if we look at it the other way around, from the top down as it were, things can look very different. We understand quite well that God makes the decision to bring his Son into the world to carry out a great act of redemption but we need to ask ourselves how he is going to achieve it. There are indeed several different ways that God could carry out his plan to insert his Son into the world.
One way would be to have him simply appear full grown in our midst. This would have the advantage of shock and this in itself might gain him followers. But it would leave a lot of questions unanswered such as where Jesus came from and what his antecedents were.
Another way would be for him to arrive in the world as a baby but then there would be all sorts of questions as to how he appeared and who would take responsibility for bringing him up.
As we know what God did in fact choose was to have Jesus be brought to birth by the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way, Jesus is brought up in a natural family and is raised in much the same way as the people living around him.
This means that the people around him accept Jesus as one of their own. It also gives him the added advantage of a distinguished ancestry through his adoptive father Joseph stretching back to Abraham and beyond, and this ensures that he is of the line of David as foretold by the Prophets.
Once you start to think of what alternatives God could have chosen to bring Jesus into the world you begin to realise his tremendous wisdom in deciding to bring Mary into his plans. Giving him a natural mother ensures that there is no possible ambiguity about his humanity. And this is something especially important because of the intense Christological controversies that arose in the first few centuries of the Christian era.
The particular way God chose to bring him among us ensures that the Church eventually recognises in a formal way that Jesus is at the same time both truly God and truly man. This is essential since it is only because he is truly God that Jesus can be the source of forgiveness for us and only because he is truly man that our humanity can be redeemed.
Other crucial aspects of the life of Mary such as her own Immaculate Conception and her Perpetual Virginity are the direct consequences of God’s decision to make her the mother of his Son.
The title Mother of God therefore flows quite naturally from all this since Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and therefore can be properly called God in the same way as the Father and the Holy Spirit are each called God.
This great feast of Mary is placed at the very first day of the New Year quite deliberately. Actually, this date for the feast was observed from the earliest times though it became somewhat overshadowed when the Feasts of the Annunciation and the Assumption were brought into the calendar in the seventh century.
In the Middle Ages the Feast of the Circumcision came to supplant it because people became more aware of the mention in the Gospel of Luke that that Circumcision of Jesus took place eight days after his birth, namely 1st January.
However, in 1969 the feast was definitively restored to the liturgical calendar and ever since it has been properly titled the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is good that we begin the New Year with a fest dedicated to Mary in recognition of the importance of her role in the mystery of our salvation.
This first day of the New Year is also kept as a World Day of Prayer for Peace and through the coincidence of these two things coming together we see the relevance of invoking Mary in the cause of spreading peace in the world. It is good that she who was the instrument of our salvation should be so closely aligned with the spreading of peace throughout the world.
We see the tremendous suffering going on in Syria and Yemen every day in the media but we also recognise that there are many other lesser known conflicts going on elsewhere in our world. We acknowledge too the great suffering and outrage caused by terrorism of various kinds both in Europe and in many other places.
These things have caused the mass movement of peoples with the resultant loss of many lives as so many cross the sea seeking safety and greater opportunity for their families.
We should never see warfare as a solution to the problems of humanity. Warfare only brings suffering to the world. Warfare causes immense harm and brings death and injury to thousands upon thousands of innocent people.
As we begin this New Year we should pray to God for peace in our world and we should do everything in our power to support the work of those who try to broker peace in war torn situations. Theirs is indeed a noble work and it deserves the support of our government and the international agencies.
As we begin the New Year let us renew our faith and trust in Mary and commit ourselves to praying and working for peace in the world. There is nothing better we could be doing on this important day, the first day of 2017.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45