Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God – Fr. Adam Royal
January 1, 2020 – 11:00 AM
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the supreme model for the Church and for every believer. That is why it is so unfortunate that we seem to completely misunderstand and mischaracterize her. The Blessed Virgin for far too long has been seen as demure and maidenly. She has been characterized as so angelically virtuous and temperate that some medieval writers even claimed that she never ate a piece of cake. Yet, these same people who thought the Virgin never indulged in desert would also depict her as the Queen of Heaven. They made golden crowns and sowed costly garments for her statues. Some of her images were so heavily adorned with gold and jewels that in materials alone, discounting any artistic or historical value, they are worth millions of dollars. People gave everything they had to honor her, but even then I think so often there was a subtle misunderstanding. She received these honors because she was the Ark of the Covenant. She was the vessel which carried God. And any vessel worthy of God must be covered in the costliest decorations.
But that isn’t the Mary of Nazareth we find in the scriptures. A mere vessel is not the young woman who said yes to God. The Blessed Virgin of the scriptures is the Mother of God, the model of Christian faith, and the greatest of Jesus’s disciples. God did not love her and bestow his abundant grace upon her because she was to be demure and maidenly. He loved her and chose her as his very mother because she was courageous. When faced with an impenetrable mystery she said yes. Most of the men in the scriptures tried to run away or weasel out of it. Elijah hid is face, Jeremiah said “I’m too young”, and Moses said, “I think you’re looking for my brother”. Yet Mary stared directly into the heart of the mystery and with courage and faith said yes. Yes, she would give birth to the world’s salvation. Yes, she would stand by the cross and watch her only child die so that we all might live.
When the Blessed Virgin heard the word of God the Gospel says she “treasured”(NRSV) it and “reflected”(NAB) or “pondered”(NRSV) on it. That word, ‘reflected’, it is the same word that St. Luke will use later in the Gospel to mean “to wage war”. That is, Mary’s acceptance of the word of God, her response of faith to encountering the mystery of God, was not servile and blind obedience. It was a living and active faith. It was a ferocious faith. Like her ancestor, the great patriarch Jacob, she wrestled with God in her heart. And like Jacob, she won. When Jacob was victorious in his wrestling match with God, God blessed him, renamed him Israel, and made him the father of the Jewish people. When Mary “waged war” with the word of God in her heart, God blessed her, and made her the mother of the Church, the mother of a new creation and even of the whole human race renewed and reborn in Christ.
Like the Blessed Virgin, God is calling each of us on a journey filled with uncertainties and new challenges. Questioning and doubting his call, even arguing with God, is not a sin, but giving up is. God wants us to have a mature relationship with him. He wants us to wrestle with his word and genuinely respond to it. We are not mindless automatons, and we should not pretend to be. The Church begins our new year with the feast of the Mother of God because she is the exemplar of the Christian life. So as this year begins, let us resolve to imitate Mary of Nazareth. Let us resolve, like her, to treasure the word of God in our hearts, to wrestle with God until he blesses us, and to trust that no matter what obstacles we face this new year our God is sure to be there with us and to bring us through.