Friday, January 1, 2016

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

(Number 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

Back in the fourth and fifth century many people – bishops, professors, even the public – argued over theological issues.  For example, it was important for them to know whether God suffered on the cross.  Some like Archbishop Nestorius of Constantinople thought the idea ridiculous.   “How could humans cause the infinite, almighty God to experience torture?” he likely asked himself.  Nestorius figured that in Jesus there were both two natures and two persons.  For him Jesus’ human person with his human nature died on the cross.  His divine person with his divine nature remained above such horror.  Other bishops like St. Cyril of Alexandria objected.  They realized that if Jesus were two persons, one divine and the other human, and only the human person died on the cross, then that death could not have redeemed humanity from its sins.  The debate crystallized at the Council of Ephesus in 431.  The council gave its determination in a rather unique way.  It declared Mary to be the “Mother of God.”  This means that Jesus was only one divine person with both a divine and a human nature.  It also means that we are saved from our sins – that our selfishness, lust, and hatred are forgiven when we cling to Jesus.

Today in celebrating Mary, the Mother of God, we are indirectly celebrating our salvation.  The gospel suggests how we might do it well.  We can identify three groups of people in the passage.  The first group is the shepherds who come to worship the new born Savior.  However, they probably return to their pastures to talk about their sheep, their families, and what is for dinner. Some of us are like them.  We dutifully come to mass today and then busy ourselves with football and other concerns.  The second group is the people the shepherds inform about what the angels proclaimed to them.  These people are said to be amazed by the story.  But their interest ends there.  They do not go to worship the Savior even for hour.  Many people use the holidays only to “eat, drink, and be merry” like these men and women whom the shepherds meet.  The third group is just one person – Mary.  The passage says that she reflects in her heart upon all that is happening around her.  We should aspire to be like her.  We should think about what it means that God became human and died on the cross for us.  We will make this meditation part of our New Year program.  More importantly, we will adjust our lives so that selfishness, lust, and hatred never control our actions.