Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mary, the Beautiful Mother of God

(Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God; This homily was given on 1 January, 2008 at St. Mary's Church, Cranston, R.I.; See Numbers 6:22-27 & Luke 2:16-21)

Do you think that Mary was beautiful? I mean, would she stand out in a crowd? If she lived in our time, would she be approached by modeling agents, or asked to do commercials for Oil of Olay? Whenever Mary is depicted in Christian art she is always beautiful. Think about Michelangelo’s Pieta. Even in modern times, in movies like The Passion of the Christ or The Nativity Story, the face of Mary is always beautiful.

But whatever Mary looked like, her Son most likely had similar features. It is very likely that the face of Jesus looked a lot like the face of Mary; Jesus may have had Mary’s eyes, or her nose. She gave birth to a Son, and gave to Him everything concerning His human nature, everything that each of our own mothers has given to us. She gave God a face.

But because her child was also God, she is rightly called the Mother of God. We honor her this morning under that title, Mary, Mother of God. This young woman from the small town of Nazareth gave birth to the Son of God! God, who is invisible, pure spirit, “whom no human being has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16), as Scripture describes Him, is suddenly made visible in Christ Jesus, God made flesh. He is given a body, given a face, and the invisible God is made visible through Mary.

In the gospel this morning the shepherds come to adore Him and they behold the glory of God in the face of a little baby in a manger. That beautiful blessing that God mentions to Moses in the first reading, “May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25), in a literal way that blessing is bestowed upon these humble shepherds. They went to that manger that night, and beheld the face of God!

The blessing given to those shepherds (and also to every one of us), and the face of God Himself, come to this world through Mary. But what Mary does for Christ she also wants to do in our lives, as well. She who brought Christ physically into this world continues to bring about life in the Church through her role as Mother.

This is significant for us, because we are the ones striving to become what Mary has already become, seeking to enter our true home in heaven, where Mary has already arrived. By her prayers and example, she helps us on our way. She, whose face is radiant as She beholds the face of God, helps us to become radiant as well.

Because, in a particular way, we are the face of Christ for those who are searching for God. The invisible God is made visible now through us, for we are the body of Christ on earth.

Do the people around us—those we encounter on a daily basis—see the face of God as beautiful?

Will they recognize, by our words and actions, that God is beautiful and that He is truly present in this world?

As we enter into a whole New Year in 2008, may we become that blessing which God desires to bestow on the world we live in. May we live lives that proclaim that blessing, announcing to all:

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!