Mary, Mother of God, Mother of Mercy


Here at the threshold of the new year we honor one of our own. Mary. A sister, and a young girl who lived long ago and far away in an obscure little town called Nazareth. Through the Bible, and reading between the lines of Scripture, combined with various writings, we have put together a picture of who this young girl might have been, and what she might’ve been like.

Throughout history our church fathers, the wisest and holiest, have announced or pronounced doctrine about this woman.
They say she was immaculately conceived. They say she was ever Virgin. And they say she was the mother of God.

It’s that last statement which becomes the centerpiece of this homily on the solemnity we celebrate today, here at the beginning of our new year.
Mary, the mother of God.

You know that this is probably Mary’s most controversial title. But it’s one of many titles that Mary has been given down to the ages. We know them from our Catholic education. Mary queen of all Saints, Mary, queen of prophets, Tower of David, Ark of the Covenant. Theyare listed in the Litany of Loretto.
But for the uninformed, or for the misinformed, or for the rebellious, this title of Mother of God typically needs a little explanation.

The problem is that they think like men think. But God’s ways are above our ways and his thoughts are above out thoughts, and so the implication for many is in confronting the Catholic understanding, is that Mary, in some way, because she is a mother, is somehow greater than her son. Mothers of course precede their sons and daughters. Well again, as we know, this is an exception to the rule. The simple explanation is that Mary gave birth to her creator.

Actually it should be noted that this title, Mary Mother of God, Came about not for an explanation of her role, but because of some confusion about her son.
The Arian heresy of the early church questioned the divinity of Jesus. The question was: is Jesus God? The Council of Nicaea answers that question. Yes, he is. And we proclaim that every time we say the Nicene Creed which we will do very shortly. Listen to the words. “True God from true God. One in being with the Father, Begotten not made.”

So then, a later counsel had to address the question of Mary and her identity. Jesus is God. Mary is mother of Jesus, who is God, so that makes her mother of God. And of course that is the truth that you should be able to confidently share with any of those folks who take issue with our love and respect of our sister, our mother, Mary, and her special role which we celebrate today.

We have entered into something called The Jubilee Year of Mercy and we will be discussing it on many separate occasions from many different angles. Here at the very beginning of the year as we honor Mary I thought it would be good if we tweak things just a bit and identified her by yet another title. Mary, Mother of Mercy.
Now this can be understood into 2 different ways.
The first way is Mary, mother of God. God has been identified as mercy. Not just merciful, but Mercy itself. So then Mary is mother of Mercy itself, or mother of God, who is mercy. Mercy personified.
Ya got that?

OK, now the second way is Mary, mother of mercy, as in, Mary as….. a merciful mother.
This is the way that we should focus on for the year of mercy. Mary is a merciful mother to us Catholic Christians, and to all.
We believe that Mary was bequeathed to us by Jesus from the cross, to be that merciful mother. In his final breath he says to his mother, woman behold your son, indicating the beloved disciple John.
And to John he says, behold, your mother.
And so from that point on the Church interpret this in two ways, on two separate levels. First on a very practical level John would take care of Mary for the rest of her days. But on a higher level Mary did indeed become the mother of the church and, by extension, the mother of all mankind.

If you had a chance to pick up that National Geographic with Mary on the cover, you would get the sense of her Universality. She is known and revered across denominational and religious lines, and it seems as if that reverence for her is increasing. And maybe the article will help that increase even more. We certainly hope so.
Because Mary wants to be merciful, on behalf of her son, to all of her children.

Mary has made appearances throughout history. And if you read the article or watched the companion piece on National Geographic TV called The Cult of Mary, you would’ve seen a timeline of her appearances throughout history.
There has been a great upsurge in modern times which leads us to believe that we have entered into a critical era. Our mother seems to be pleading with us now to please get your act together, kids, and for those who are indeed devout Catholics, to turn up the heat a little bit. To pray more, especially the rosary, and of course to be merciful to others. To your neighbors, in fact to all your brothers and sisters.

Now, a major focus of this year is to learn how to do just that. There are many ways both practical and spiritual.
Of course, we are always called upon to feed the hungry, clothed the naked, shelter the homeless, to visit those in prison etc. etc. etc.
And, of course, we always pray for our brothers and sisters. We are now invited to pray the chaplet of mercy. This came through the Divine Mercy devotion which was given to us from Jesus through Sister Faustina. I try to join our school children every day at 3:15 to say the chaplet of mercy. You’re all invited to join us. You have been invited to join in praying it after mass on the weekends. Well do it tonight after this mass.

As I have looked out over the situation in our world and reflected upon all of the heartbreak out there, I really wonder what is the best thing for us to do. What can we do?
Well the more I have thought about it, the more it has become clear to me that a very important thing for us to do is to make reparation for our sinful world. To somehow stand in the breach between the justice of God and this mad, mad, world we live in.
How might we do that? Well, I might have a suggestion. I’m not going to give it tonight but sometime in the very near future I will make a proposal to you by which we might join our mother, Mary in her role as merciful mother. I think we can be merciful brothers and sisters in cooperation with her, Mary, the mother of God. And our merciful mother.

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