Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67: 2-3, 5, 6, 8; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21
When I was stationed at St. Anne, Bristol, we hosted an ecumenical discussion on Mary, the Mother of God. It was well attended, and the discussion seemed very fruitful.
However, during one of the breaks, a member of one of the denominations present engaged me in a conversation about the event. He said he appreciated us gathering to talk about faith but wondered why we were spending so much time talking about Mary. He finished by saying he didn’t think about Mary very much; she just wasn’t that important to his faith.
His statement is also a challenge to us as Catholics that we need to be ready to answer. Why do we spend so much time talking about Mary? Why is Mary so important to our faith?
Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had a powerful answer to this question: “The key to understanding Mary is to not start with her, but instead, begin with Jesus her son! The more we think of him, the more we will think of her. The less we think of Jesus, the less we think of Mary!”
Another answer to that question is that Jesus himself tells his disciples who Mary is and wants us to understand her importance for his disciples:
“Standing by the Cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:25-27).
Someone might counter that the New Testament has only a few references to Mary, and these are primarily in the infancy narratives. But in the Gospel of John, Mary is prominently present at the beginning and the end of Jesus’ public ministry. In Act of the Apostles, she is prominently present at the birth of the Church on Pentecost.
Even more so, the Old Testament is filled with references to Mary. From Old Testament typology, we see Mary as the New Eve, the New Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of the King/ God who is the Messiah. Pope Benedict XVI said, “The image of Mary in the New Testament is woven entirely of Old Testament threads.”
On this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our first reading tells us that God blesses his people by the invocation of the name of God. Through the angel’s revelation to Mary at the Annunciation, we know that the name we invoke is now the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the second reading, we learn from St. Paul that we are now sons of God through the Spirit of the son sent into our hearts — he who was born of a woman.
The Gospel joins us with the shepherds in searching for the one about whom the angels sang. When we find him, we will, like the shepherds, always find Mary with Jesus whom she bore. He will always make us think of her and she will always lead us to him.
Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.