You’ve probably heard the expression “loaded question” or “loaded statement,” before, something already completely charged with meaning. The brief passage we just heard from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is what we could call a “loaded passage.” There is so much going on in those few short lines. St. Paul says:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. —Galatians 4:4-5
Pope John Paul II begins his encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater—Mother of the Redeemer—with that very passage from St. Paul precisely because it is so loaded, so filled with meaning. He talks about how God the Father’s loving plan to redeem us is fulfilled in the sending of Christ, His Son (the very thing we celebrated this Christmas) and how we, in Christ, truly become the sons and daughters of God (Redemptoris Mater, #1).
But at the heart of that passage from St. Paul, and at the heart of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter, is the person of Mary. She is the one through whom God enters this world. He could have come in any way He desired. How remarkable, that God would choose to come in so simple and humble a way, “born of a woman,” exactly like each one of us.
That is what today’s feast—Mary, the Mother of God— is all about. Mary gives birth to a Son, and everything that pertains to His human nature comes from her. In that sense, she is a mother like any mother here today. But her Son Jesus is unlike any other child; He is a Divine Person, the eternal Son of God. For that reason—because Mary truly gave birth to Christ—she is rightfully called the Mother of God.
But what does it mean to be a mother? In his book Mary, Mirror of the Church, Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa—preacher to the papal household—writes about how the title “mother” is one that affects the very being of a person. To become a mother changes a woman; she is never the same person again. She has become a mother forever.
Cantalamessa points out that whenever Mary’s Motherhood is mentioned in the Scriptures, there are two aspects or events that are always placed together, two things that are considered essential for motherhood: conception (to conceive) and to give birth. As the angel Gabriel said to Mary at the annunciation: “You will conceive in your womb, and bear a son” (Luke 1:21). Those two things.
Part of the very dignity of Mary is that she was constantly conceiving the Lord in her heart, and consistently giving birth to Him in the world we live in. Mary’s motherhood is not just something that "happens" in Bethlehem on Christmas morning. It is something that occurred all throughout her life: always conceiving the Lord by faith, and always responding to that faith by her actions. From the crib where Christ is born to the cross where He dies, Mary is always the Mother bringing forth new life through faith.
As followers of Christ, we are called to do the same. We, too, are called to conceive the Lord in our hearts by faith, and to give Him a place in this world we live in.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his celebration of Vespers on the First Sunday of Advent, said that the Lord is constantly asking to come into this world through us. Even as God entered into Mary’s life and made her the mother of His Son, Pope Benedict says that God “knocks at the door of our hearts [and asks]: “are you willing to give me your flesh, your time, your life?”
In this time of New Year’s resolutions, will we strive to give God a place in our lives and in our world, or will our resolutions—and our faith—remain only conceptions, and nothing more?
This morning we turn to Mary with all our New Year’s resolutions, and with the doors of our hearts wide open to the faith and works that her Son will bring into our lives in this New Year. May she who was the first to give birth to Christ in this world continue to intercede for us this New Year’s Day, and everyday of the year 2006.