POPE FRANCIS HOMILY REFLECTION ON
MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD.
HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
55th WORLD DAY OF PEACE
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
St Peter’s Basilica
Sunday, 1st January 2023
Holy Mother of God! This was the joyful acclamation of the holy People of God echoing in the streets of Ephesus in the year 431, when the Council Fathers proclaimed Mary the Mother of God. This truth is a fundamental datum of faith, but above all, it is a marvellous fact. God has a Mother and is thus bound forever to our humanity, like a child to its mother, to the point that our humanity is his humanity. It is an amazing and consoling truth, so much so that the most recent Council, which met here in Saint Peter’s, stated that, “by his incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each individual. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, he acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). That is what God did by being born of Mary: he showed his concrete love for our humanity, embracing it truly and fully. Brothers and sisters, God does not love us in words but in deeds; not from “on high”, but “up close”, precisely from “within” our flesh, because in Mary the Word became flesh, because Christ continues to have a heart of flesh that beats for each and every of us!
Holy Mother of God! Many books and weighty tomes have been written about this title of Our Lady. Yet these words have mostly entered the minds and hearts of the holy People of God through the simple and familiar prayer that accompanies the rhythm of our days, our moments of weariness and our greatest aspirations: the Hail Mary. After a few phrases drawn from the word of God, the second part of the prayer continues: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” This invocation, often repeated throughout the day, has allowed God to draw near, through Mary, to our lives and our history. Mother of God, pray for us sinners… It is recited in the most diverse languages, on the beads of a rosary and at times of need, in the presence of a holy image or walking along the way. To this invocation the Mother of God always responds; she hears our petitions; holding her Son in her arms, she blesses us and brings us the tender love of God made flesh. In a word, Mary gives us hope. At the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the earth needs rain. This year that opens with the celebration of God’s Mother and our own, tells us that the key to hope is Mary and that the antiphon of hope is the invocation, Holy Mother of God. And today, we entrust beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to our Most Holy Mother, that she will accompany him on his journey from this world to God.
Let us pray to our Mother in a special way for her sons and daughters who are suffering and no longer have the strength to pray, and for our many brothers and sisters throughout the world who are victims of war, passing these holidays in darkness and cold, in poverty and fear, immersed in violence and indifference! For all those who have no peace, let us invoke Mary, the woman who brought into the world the Prince of peace (cf. Is 9:6; Gal 4:4). In her, the Queen of Peace, was fulfilled the blessing we heard in the first reading: “May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:26). At the hands of a Mother, God’s peace wants to enter into our homes, our hearts and our world. Yet what must we do to receive that peace?
Let us be guided by the people we meet in today’s Gospel, who were the first to see the Mother and Child: the shepherds of Bethlehem. They were poor people and perhaps somewhat uncouth, and that night they were working. Yet they, not the learned or the powerful, were the first to recognize God among us, the God who became poor and loves to be with the poor. The Gospel emphasizes two very simple things that the shepherds did: things simple but not always easy. They went and saw. Two actions: Going and seeing.
First, going. The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “went with haste” (Lk 2:16). They did not wait around. It was night, they had their flocks to keep, and naturally they were weary: they could easily have waited for dawn, held off until sunrise in order to go and see the Child lying in the manger. Instead, they went with haste, because where important things are concerned, we need to react promptly and not wait, for “the grace of the Spirit brooks no delay” (SAINT AMBROSE, Commentary on Saint Luke, 2). And so they encountered the Messiah, the one awaited for centuries, the one that so many others had long sought.
Brothers and sisters, if we are to welcome God and his peace, we cannot stand around complacently, waiting for things to get better. We need to get up, recognize the moments of grace, set out and take a risk. We need to take a risk! Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around, thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves: “This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help?” So many people, in the Church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do, they are waiting for your help. Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts, and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good. They are inviting us to set aside many of our routines and our comforts in order to open ourselves to the new things of God, which are found in the humility of service, in the courage of caring for others. Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the shepherds: let us set out with haste!
When they arrived, the Gospel tells us, the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (v. 16). It then says that “after having seen” the Child (cf. v. 17), they set out, filled with wonder, to tell others about Jesus, glorifying and praising God for everything that they had heard and seen (cf. vv. 17-18, 20). The important thing was that they had seen him. What is important is to see, to look around and, like the shepherds, to halt before the Child resting in his mother’s arms. To say nothing, to ask nothing, to do nothing. Simply to look on in silence, to adore and to contemplate the tender and comforting love of God made man, and his, and our, Mother. At the beginning of this year, among all the other things that we would like to do and experience, let us devote some time to seeing, to opening our eyes and to keeping them open before what really matters: God and our brothers and sisters. Let us have the courage to experience the wonder of encounter, which is God’s style. That is something very different from the world’s seductions, which seem to calm us. The wonder of God and of encounter gives us peace; the world can only anesthetize us and give peace of mind.
How many times, in our busy lives, do we fail to stop, even for a moment, to be close to the Lord and to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him. We do the same thing with others: caught up in our own affairs or in getting ahead, we have no time to listen to our wife, our husband, to talk with our children, to ask them about how they really are, and not simply about their studies or their health. And how good it is for us to take time and listen to the elderly, to our grandfathers and grandmothers, in order to remember the deeper meaning of our lives and to recover our roots. Let us ask ourselves too, whether we are capable of seeing the people next door, the people who live in the same building, the people we meet each day on the street. Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the shepherds: let us learn to see! To understand by seeing with our hearts. Let us learn to see.
Going and seeing. Today the Lord has come among us andthe Holy Mother of God sets him before our eyes. Let us rediscover in the enthusiasm of going and the wonder of seeing the secret that can make this year truly “new”, and thus overcome the weariness of being stuck or the false peace of seduction.
And now, brothers and sisters, I invite all of you to look to the Virgin Mary. Let us invoke her three times, as the people of Ephesus did: Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!
SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
WORLD DAY OF PEACE
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 1st January 2023
SOLENNITÀ DI MARIA SS.MA MADRE DI DIO
LV GIORNATA MONDIALE DELLA PACE
Piazza San Pietro
Sabato, 1 gennaio 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, good day and Happy New Year!
The beginning of the new year is entrusted to Mary Most Holy whom we celebrate today as Mother of God. At this time, let us invoke her intercession especially for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left this world yesterday morning. Let us all join together, with one heart and one soul, in thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church. We saw recently on TV, the “Sua Immagine” program, all that he did and the life of Pope Benedict.
As we contemplate Mary in the stable where Jesus was born, we can ask ourselves: What languages does the Holy Virgin use to speak to us? How does Mary speak? What can we learn from her for this year that is dawning? We can say, “Our Lady, teach us what we need to do this year”.
In reality, if we observe the scene that today’s Liturgy presents to us, we note that Mary does not speak. She welcomes the mystery she is experiencing with awe, she cherishes everything in her heart and, above all, she is concerned about the Child whom, as the Gospel says, was “laid in a manger” (cf. Lk 2:16). This verb “to lay” means to carefully place, and this tells us that the language proper to Mary is maternal: she tenderly takes care of the Child. This is Mary’s greatness. As the angels celebrate, the shepherds come running and everyone praises God with a loud voice for what has happened, Mary does not speak, she does not entertain her guests explaining everything that had happened to her, she does not steal the show – to us who like to steal the show! – she does not steal the show. On the contrary, she puts the Child in the centre, she lovingly takes care of him. A poet once wrote that Mary “even knew how to be solemnly mute, […] because she did not want to lose sight of her God” (A. Merini, Corpo d’amore. Un incontro con Gesù, Milano 2001, 114).
This is typically maternal language: the tenderness of taking care of. In fact, after having borne the gift of a mysterious prodigy in their wombs for nine months, mothers constantly put their babies at the centre of their attention: they feed them, they hold them in their arms, they tenderly lay them down in the crib. To take care of – this is the language of the Mother of God, a language of mothers: to take care of.
Brothers and sisters, like all mothers, Mary bore life in her womb and thus, she talks to us about our future. But at the same time, she reminds us that, if we truly want the New Year to be good, if we want to reconstruct hope, we need to abandon the language, those actions and those choices inspired by egoism and learn the language of love, which is to take care of. To take care of is a new language that counters these languages of egoism. This is the commitment: to take care of our lives – each one of us needs to take care of our own life – to take care of our time, of our souls; to take care of creation and the environment we live in; and even more, to take care of our neighbour, of those whom the Lord has placed alongside us, as well as our brothers and sisters who are in need and who call for our attention and our compassion. Looking at Our Lady with the Child, there taking care of her Child, let us learn to take care of others, even of ourselves, caring for our interior health, our spiritual life, charity.
Celebrating today the World Day of Peace, let us regain awareness of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us to construct the future – in the face of the personal and social crises we are living, in the face of the tragedy of the war, “we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion” (Message for the 56th World Day of Peace, 5). And we can do this if we take care of each other and if, all of us together, take care of our common home.
Let us implore Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God, so that in this epoch, polluted by diffidence and indifference, she might make us capable of being compassionate and providing care – capable of being compassionate and providing care – capable of “looking more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary” (Apos. Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 169).
Copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
54th World Day of Peace
Due to painful sciatica, this evening’s and tomorrow’s mornings celebrations at the Altar of the Chair in the Vatican Basilica will not be presided over by the Holy Father Francis.
This evening’s First Vespers and Te Deum, 31 December 2020, will be presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals, while Holy Mass tomorrow, 1 January 2021, will be presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.
Tomorrow, 1 January 2021, Pope Francis will, however, lead the recitation of the Angelus from the Library of the Apostolic Palace, as planned.
1st January 2021
In the readings of today’s Mass, three verbs find their fulfilment in the Mother of God: to bless, to be born and to find.
To bless. In the Book of Numbers, the Lord tells his sacred ministers to bless his people: “Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, ‘The Lord bless you’” (6:23-24). This is no pious exhortation; it is a specific request. And it is important that, today too, priests constantly bless the People of God and that the faithful themselves be bearers of blessing; that they bless. The Lord knows how much we need to be blessed. The first thing he did after creating the world was to say that everything was good (bene-dicere) and to say of us that that we were very good. Now, however, with the Son of God we receive not only words of blessing, but the blessing itself: Jesus is himself the blessing of the Father. In him, Saint Paul tells us, the Father blesses us “with every blessing” (Eph 1:3). Every time we open our hearts to Jesus, God’s blessing enters our lives.
Today we celebrate the Son of God, who is “blessed” by nature, who comes to us through his Mother, “blessed” by grace. In this way, Mary brings us God’s blessing. Wherever she is, Jesus comes to us. Therefore, we should welcome her like Saint Elizabeth who, immediately recognizing the blessing, cried out: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk 1:42). We repeat those words every time we recite the Hail Mary. In welcoming Mary, we receive a blessing, but we also learn to bless. Our Lady teaches us that blessings are received in order to be given. She, who was blessed, became a blessing for all those whom she met: for Elizabeth, for the newlyweds at Cana, for the Apostles in the Upper Room… We too are called to bless, to “speak well” in God’s name. Our world is gravely polluted by the way we “speak” and think “badly” of others, of society, of ourselves. Speaking badly corrupts and decays, whereas blessing restores life and gives the strength needed to begin anew each day. Let us ask the Mother of God for the grace to be joyful bearers of God’s blessing to others, as she is to us.
The second verb is to be born. Saint Paul points out that the Son of God was “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). In these few words, he tells us something amazing: that the Lord was born like us. He did not appear on the scene as an adult, but as a child. He came into the world not on his own, but from a woman, after nine months in the womb of his Mother, from whom he allowed his humanity to be shaped. The heart of the Lord began to beat within Mary; the God of life drew oxygen from her. Ever since then, Mary has united us to God because in her God bound himself to our flesh, and he has never left it. Saint Francis loved to say that Mary “made the Lord of Majesty our brother” (SAINT BONAVENTURE, Legenda Maior, 9, 3). She is not only the bridge joining us to God; she is more. She is the road that God travelled in order to reach us, and the road that we must travel in order to reach him. Through Mary, we encounter God the way he wants us to: in tender love, in intimacy, in the flesh. For Jesus is not an abstract idea; he is real and incarnate; he was “born of a woman”, and quietly grew. Women know about this kind of quiet growth. We men tend to be abstract and want things right away. Women are concrete and know how to weave life’s threads with quiet patience. How many women, how many mothers, thus give birth and rebirth to life, offering the world a future!
We are in this world not to die, but to give life. The holy Mother of God teaches us that the first step in giving life to those around us is to cherish it within ourselves. Today’s Gospel tells us that Mary “kept all these things in her heart” (cf. Lk 2:19). And goodness comes from the heart. How important it is to keep our hearts pure, to cultivate our interior life and to persevere in our prayer! How important it is to educate our hearts to care, to cherish the persons and things around us. Everything starts from this: from cherishing others, the world and creation. What good is it to know many persons and things if we fail to cherish them? This year, while we hope for new beginnings and new cures, let us not neglect care. Together with a vaccine for our bodies, we need a vaccine for our hearts. That vaccine is care. This will be a good year if we take care of others, as Our Lady does with us.
The third verb is to find. The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph and the child” (v. 16). They did not find miraculous and spectacular signs, but a simple family. Yet there they truly found God, who is grandeur in littleness, strength in tenderness. But how were the shepherds able to find this inconspicuous sign? They were called by an angel. We too would not have found God if we had not been called by grace. We could never have imagined such a God, born of a woman, who revolutionizes history with tender love. Yet by grace we did find him. And we discovered that his forgiveness brings new birth, his consolation enkindles hope, his presence bestows irrepressible joy. We found him but we must not lose sight of him. Indeed, the Lord is never found once and for all: each day he has to be found anew. The Gospel thus describes the shepherds as constantly on the lookout, constantly on the move: “they went with haste, they found, they made known, they returned, glorifying and praising God” (vv. 16-17.20). They were not passive, because to receive grace we have to be active.
What about ourselves? What are we called to find at the beginning of this year? It would be good to find time for someone. Time is a treasure that all of us possess, yet we guard it jealously, since we want to use it only for ourselves. Let us ask for the grace to find time for God and for our neighbour – for those who are alone or suffering, for those who need someone to listen and show concern for them. If we can find time to give, we will be amazed and filled with joy, like the shepherds. May Our Lady, who brought God into the world of time, help us to be generous with our time. Holy Mother of God, to you we consecrate this New Year. You, who know how to cherish things in your heart, care for us, bless our time, and teach us to find time for God and for others. With joy and confidence, we acclaim you: Holy Mother of God! Amen.
1st January 2020
Born of a woman
“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Born of woman: Jesus came in this way. He did not appear in the world as an adult but, as the Gospel tells us, he was “conceived in the womb” (Lk 2;21). It was there that he made our humanity his own: day after day, month after month. In the womb of a woman, God and mankind are united, never to be separated again. Even now, in heaven, Jesus lives in the flesh that he took in his mother’s womb. In God, there is our human flesh!
On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.
Born of woman. The rebirth of humanity began from a woman. Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body. How often are women’s bodies sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography, exploited like a canvas to be used. Yet women’s bodies must be freed from consumerism; they must be respected and honoured. Theirs is the most noble flesh in the world, for it conceived and brought to light the love that has saved us! In our day, too, motherhood is demeaned, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth. There are mothers who risk difficult journeys desperately seeking to give a better future to the fruit of their womb, yet are deemed redundant by people with full stomachs but hearts empty of love.
Born of woman. The Bible tells us that woman come onto the scene at the height of creation, as a summation of the entire created world. For she holds within herself the very purpose of creation: the generation and safekeeping of life, communion with all things, care for all things. So it is with the Mother of God in today’s Gospel. The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God.
In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.
As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them. And if we want a better world, a world that will be a peaceful home and not a war field, may we take to heart the dignity of each woman. From a woman was born the Prince of peace. Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes. Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.
Born of woman. Jesus, newly born, was mirrored in the eyes of the woman, in the face of his mother. From her, he received his first caresses; with her, he exchanged the first smiles. With her began the revolution of tenderness. The Church, looking at the Baby Jesus, is called to continue that revolution. For she too, like Mary, is both woman and mother. The Church is woman and mother, and in Our Lady, she finds her distinctive traits. She sees Mary immaculate, and feels called to say no to sin and to worldliness. She sees Mary fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Gospel and to give birth to it in people’s lives. She sees Mary a mother, and she feels called to receive every man and woman as a son or daughter.
In drawing close to Mary, the Church discovers herself, she finds her centre and her unity. The enemy of our human nature, the devil, seeks instead to divide, to highlight differences, ideologies, partisan thinking and parties. But we do not understand the Church if we regard her by starting with structures, programmes and trends, ideologies and functions. We may grasp something, but not the heart of the Church. Because the Church has a mother’s heart. And we, as her sons and daughters, invoke today the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers. O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to you we entrust this year. Keep it in your heart. We acclaim you, the Holy Mother of God. All together now, for three times, let us stand and acclaim the Lady, the Holy Mother of God. [with the assembly] Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!
SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Vatican Basilica Tuesday, 1 January 2019
“All who heard were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (Lk 2:18). To be amazed: this is what is asked of us today, at the conclusion of the Octave of Christmas, as we continue to contemplate the Child born for us, lacking everything yet abounding in love. Amazement is what we should feel at the beginning of each year, for life is a gift that constantly gives us a chance to make a new start, even from the most lowly of circumstances.
Today is also a day to be amazed by the Mother of God. God appears as a little child, held in the arms of a woman who feeds her Creator. The statue before our eyes depicts the Mother and Child so close as to appear as one. That is the mystery we celebrate today, which gives rise to boundless amazement: God has become one with humanity forever. God and man, always together, that is the good news of this new year. God is no distant lord, dwelling in splendid isolation above the heavens, but love incarnate, born like us of a mother, in order to be a brother to each of us, to be close to us: the God of closeness. He rests on the lap of his mother, who is also our mother, and from there he pours out upon humanity a new tenderness. Thus we come to understand more fully God’s love, which is both paternal and maternal, like that of a mother who never stops believing in her children and never abandons them. God-with-us, Emmanuel, loves us despite our mistakes, our sins, and the way we treat our world. God believes in mankind, because its first and preeminent member is his own Mother.
At the beginning of the year, let us implore from Mary the grace to be amazed at the God of surprises. Let us renew the amazement we felt when faith was first born in us. The Mother of God helps us: the Mother who gave birth to the Lord, now presents us, reborn, to the Lord. She is a mother who generates in her children the amazement of faith, because faith is an encounter, not a religion. Without amazement, life becomes dull and routine, and so it is with faith. The Church too needs to renew her amazement at being the dwelling place of the living God, the Bride of the Lord, a Mother who gives birth to her children. Otherwise, she risks turning into a beautiful museum of the past. A “Church museum”. Our Lady instead gives the Church the feel of a home, a home in which the God of newness dwells. Let us receive with amazement the mystery of the Mother of God, as the inhabitants of Ephesus did at the time of the Council. Like them, let us acclaim her “Holy Mother of God”. From her, let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon, to be embraced, to be taken by the hand.
Let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon. Especially in times of need, when we are entangled in life’s knots, we rightly lift our eyes to Our Lady, to Our Mother. Yet first, we should let ourselves be gazed upon by Our Lady. When she gazes upon us, she does not see sinners but children. It is said that the eyes are the mirror of the soul; the eyes of Mary, full of grace, reflect the beauty of God, they show us a reflection of heaven. Jesus himself said that the eye is “the lamp of the body” (Mt 6:22): the eyes of Our Lady are able to bring light to every dark corner; everywhere they rekindle hope. As she gazes upon us, she says: “Take heart, dear children; here I am, your Mother!”
This maternal gaze, which instils confidence and trust, helps us to grow in faith. Faith is a bond with God that engages the whole person; to be preserved, it needs the Mother of God. Her maternal gaze helps us see ourselves as beloved children in God’s faithful people, and to love one another regardless of our individual limitations and approaches. Our Lady keeps us rooted in the Church, where unity counts more than diversity; she encourages us to care for one another. Mary’s gaze reminds us that faith demands a tenderness that can save us from becoming lukewarm. Tenderness: the Church of tenderness. Tenderness is a word that today many want to remove from the dictionary. When faith makes a place for the Mother of God, we never lose sight of the centre: the Lord, for Mary never points to herself but to Jesus; and our brothers and sisters, for Mary is mother.
The gaze of the Mother, and the gaze of every mother. A world that looks to the future without a mother’s gaze is shortsighted. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters. The human family is built upon mothers. A world in which maternal tenderness is dismissed as mere sentiment may be rich materially, but poor where the future is concerned. Mother of God, teach us to see life as you do. Turn your gaze upon us, upon our misery, our poverty. Turn to us thine eyes of mercy.
Let us allow ourselves to be embraced. From Mary’s gaze, we now turn to her heart, in which, as today’s Gospel recounts, she “treasured all these things and pondered them” (Lk 2:19). Our Lady, in other words, took everything to heart; she embraced everything, events both good and bad. And she pondered all these things; she brought them before God. This was her secret. In the same way, she now takes to heart the life of each of us: she wants to embrace our every situation and to present it to God.
In today’s fragmented world, where we risk losing our bearings, a Mother’s embrace is essential. How much dispersion and solitude there is all around us! The world is completely connected, yet seems increasingly disjointed. We need to entrust ourselves to our Mother. In the Scriptures, Our Lady embraces any number of concrete situations; she is present wherever she is needed. She visits her cousin Elizabeth; she comes to the aid of the newlyweds in Cana; she encourages the disciples in the Upper Room… Mary is a cure for solitude and dispersion. She is the Mother of consolation: she stands “with” those who are “alone”. She knows that words are not enough to console; presence is needed, and she is present as a mother. Let us allow her to embrace our lives. In the Salve Regina, we call her “our life”. This may seem exaggerated, for Christ himself is “life” (cf. Jn 14:6), yet Mary is so closely united to him, and so close to us, that we can do no better than to put our hands in hers and to acknowledge her as “our life, our sweetness and our hope.”
And in the journey of life, let us allow ourselves to be taken by the hand. Mothers take their children by the hand and lovingly introduce them to life. But how many children today wander off on their own and lose their way. Thinking they are strong, they get lost; thinking they are free, they become slaves. How many, forgetting a mother’s affection, live in anger with themselves and indifference to everything! How many, sad to say, react to everything and everyone with bitterness and malice! Life is such. Showing oneself “malicious” even seems at times to be a sign of strength. Yet it is nothing more than weakness. We need to learn from mothers that heroism is shown in self-giving, strength in compassion, wisdom in meekness.
God himself needed a Mother: how much more so do we! Jesus himself gave her to us, from the cross: “Behold your mother!” (Jn 19:27). He said this to the beloved disciple and to every disciple. Our Lady is not an optional accessory: she has to be welcomed into our life. She is the Queen of peace, who triumphs over evil and leads us along paths of goodness, who restores unity to her children, who teaches us compassion.
Mary, take us by the hand. Clinging to you, we will pass safely through the straits of history. Lead us by the hand to rediscover the bonds that unite us. Gather us beneath your mantle, in the tenderness of true love, where the human family is reborn: “We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God”. Let us together pray these words to Our Lady: “We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God”.
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
1 January 2018
The year opens in the name of the Mother. Mother of God is the most important title of Our Lady. But we might ask why we say Mother of God, and not Mother of Jesus. In the past some wanted to be content simply with the latter, but the Church has declared that Mary is the Mother of God. We should be grateful, because these words contain a magnificent truth about God and about ourselves. From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity. There is no longer God without man; the flesh Jesus took from his Mother is our own, now and for all eternity. To call Mary the Mother of God reminds us of this: God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb.
The word mother (mater) is related to the word matter. In his Mother, the God of heaven, the infinite God, made himself small, he became matter, not only to be with us but also to be like us. This is the miracle, the great novelty! Man is no longer alone; no more an orphan, but forever a child. The year opens with this novelty. And we proclaim it by saying: Mother of God! Ours is the joy of knowing that our solitude has ended. It is the beauty of knowing that we are beloved children, of knowing that this childhood of ours can never be taken away from us. It is to see a reflection of ourselves in the frail and infant God resting in his mother’s arms, and to realize that humanity is precious and sacred to the Lord. Henceforth, to serve human life is to serve God. All life, from life in the mother’s womb to that of the elderly, the suffering and the sick, and to that of the troublesome and even repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped.
Let us now be guided by today’s Gospel. Only one thing is said about the Mother of God: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She kept them. She simply kept; Mary does not speak. The Gospel does not report a single word of hers in the entire account of Christmas. Here too, the Mother is one with her Son: Jesus is an “infant”, a child “unable to speak”. The Word of God, who “long ago spoke in many and various ways” (Heb 1:1), now, in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), is silent. The God before whom all fall silent is himself a speechless child. His Majesty is without words; his mystery of love is revealed in lowliness. This silence and lowliness is the language of his kingship. His Mother joins her Son and keeps these things in silence.
That silence tells us that, if we would “keep” ourselves, we need silence. We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib. Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savour the real meaning of life. As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts. To set aside a moment of silence each day to be with God is to “keep” our soul; it is to “keep” our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.
The Gospel goes on to say that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. What were these things? They were joys and sorrows. On the one hand, the birth of Jesus, the love of Joseph, the visit of the shepherds, that radiant night. But on the other, an uncertain future, homelessness “because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7), the desolation of rejection, the disappointment of having to give birth to Jesus in a stable. Hopes and worries, light and darkness: all these things dwelt in the heart of Mary. What did she do? She pondered them, that is to say she dwelt on them, with God, in her heart. She held nothing back; she locked nothing within out of self-pity or resentment. Instead, she gave everything over to God. That is how she “kept” those things. We “keep” things when we hand them over: by not letting our lives become prey to fear, distress or superstition, by not closing our hearts or trying to forget, but by turning everything into a dialogue with God. God, who keeps us in his heart, then comes to dwell in our lives.
These, then, are the secrets of the Mother of God: silently treasuring all things and bringing them to God. And this took place, the Gospel concludes, in her heart. The heart makes us look to the core of the person, his or her affections and life. At the beginning of the year, we too, as Christians on our pilgrim way, feel the need to set out anew from the centre, to leave behind the burdens of the past and to start over from the things that really matter. Today, we have before us the point of departure: the Mother of God. For Mary is exactly what God wants us to be, what he wants his Church to be: a Mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbour in our lives. To set out anew, let us look to our Mother. In her heart beats the heart of the Church. Today’s feast tells us that if we want to go forward, we need to turn back: to begin anew from the crib, from the Mother who holds God in her arms.
Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep”, to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us. May the Mother, God’s finest human creation, guard and keep this year, and bring the peace of her Son to our hearts and to our world.
SOURCE: vaticannews.va EMPHASIS MINE.
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