Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God Year A 2017:
Today we complete the octave of Christmas. So, we are continuing to celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Son of God. When Jesus becomes human he takes on every aspect of our existence. Today we even hear that he was circumcised and named on the 8th day.
On this 8th day of the Octave of Christmas, we also remember and venerate Mary, the Mother of God. As we do so, the Church gives us the story of the shepherds, who are certainly images for us. We hear that they went in search of Jesus. But, I find it quite interesting how the writer of the gospel puts it, Matthew says: they searched for Jesus, and they found Mary and Joseph… and the Child Jesus. I think this paints a beautiful picture of Marian devotion for us. We should all be searching for Jesus. If we find Mary, we will find Jesus. Devotion to the Mother of God is not something secondary or optional. Christ the Lord gave Mary to us as our Mother, she, in turn, always leads us to her Son. Authentic Marian devotion, then, has to be a part of our lives.
How do we know if our devotion to Mary is authentic? It seems to me that the number one, most important component of authentic Marian devotion is that it always leads to Jesus. Remember, Mary is never in competition with Jesus. It’s not like we have to choose. Mary doesn’t want anything from us, except that we become disciples and followers of her son. I know that sometimes non-Catholics will ridicule us for our Marian devotion. Sometimes they might be right. If we ever exult Mary to the point that she is in competition with our relationship to God, to her Son, then we could be in big trouble. We all need an authentic devotion to Mary; and, we will know our devotion is authentic if it leads us to Christ.
All that being said, here are some pointers on authentic Marian devotion. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but this is what I do.
First, I see Mary as the great example. Read and reread those stories in the Gospel. Mary says yes to the angel. She visits Elizabeth. She finds Jesus in the temple. Over and again, Mary does amazing things. Her words are beautiful and inspirational. Read those stories, know them well. Try to practice the lessons we learn from Mary.
Second, I turn to Mary like my own mother. And for me, that’s easy since my mom’s name is Mary too… When Mary was at the foot of the cross, Jesus told the disciple: Behold your Mother. All of us, who are disciples, have a mother in Mary. I remember reading that when John Paul II’s mom died, he said to Mary: you will have to be my mother now. That’s the kind of relationship he had with Mary. That’s the kind of relationship we can have as well. Tell her your problems, ask for her guidance. She wants to be a part of our lives.
Third, I make the rosary an important part of my prayer life. The rosary is an incredibly powerful prayer. It has won battles large and small. It can help us in the battle of daily life. For Advent, some friends and I made the resolution to pray the rosary every day to prepare for Christmas. I can tell you that it was a powerful prayer experience. I’ve been keeping it up too. A daily rosary is great. Maybe a weekly rosary with your family. The rosary is great too, because the mysteries lead us closer to Jesus.
So, those are my three easy steps. 1, read the stories of Mary in the gospel and see her as a great example. 2, turn to Mary like we would our own mothers. 3, make the rosary and important part of our prayer life.
These things will lead us closer to Christ. By authentic devotion to the Mother of God we, like the shepherds, find the person of Jesus. Mary wants nothing more than to show us her son. In a special way, as we celebrate this Mass, we ask Mary to help our faith, to help us grow closer to her son who is Christ and Emmanuel.