2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Mary, Mother of God - Midnight Mass">
Tuesday January 1, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Mary, Mother of God

Mass at Midnight

Reading I (Numbers 6:22-27) Reading II (Galatians 4:4-7)

Gospel (St. Luke 2:16-21)

In the first reading tonight from the Book of Numbers, we heard God telling Moses the way that he is to bless the people of Israel. Part of that blessing says, "The Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace!" That is precisely what we celebrate today: the fullness of God’s blessing in this manner, that God has indeed let His face shine upon us. As Saint Paul says, "In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom from the law all those who were subjected to it so that we could receive our status as adopted sons."

The only way that we can receive that status is by looking upon the face of Christ, by looking upon the Lord because He has let His face shine upon us. It is not because of any worthiness of our own; it is purely a gift from God because He loves us infinitely. That is something each one of us needs to be able to accept. When we look at the feast that we celebrate today, the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, how grateful we need to be for this incredible woman, the most humble creature that God ever made, and the one that He has exalted now above all creation. To this beautiful young woman, the angel Gabriel was sent, and she said yes.

Now we have difficulty accepting that God would even come into this world and that He would die for us, that He would want us to be part of Himself, that He would choose us from all humanity to be incorporated into His Mystical Body to be members of Christ, to share in His life. But that is exactly what we heard in the second reading. It was not merely that, in the fullness of time, God sent His Son to ransom us; that was not enough for God. Now God has made us His own sons and daughters, members of Jesus Christ. He has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, welling up within us to cry out "Abba, Father!"

And in recognizing the fatherhood of God we inherently recognize the motherhood of Mary, the spiritual maternity of Our Lady. She is the Mother of God. She is also the mother of all of us who are members of the Son of God. Today in a special way we celebrate the Divine Maternity of Our Lady, but the Church also reminds us of the spiritual maternity of Mary: that each one of us is a child of Mary, each one of us is a member of Christ, each one of us is a son or daughter of God. We are heirs with Christ to the eternal glory of God Himself where we will be able to look upon the face of God for all eternity. The blessing that God told Moses to give to the people of Israel will be ours in its fullness.

For four hours tonight we were able to gaze upon the face of Christ, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. And yet, we are not able to see Him face-to-face. He is hidden, if you will, under the form of bread in the Blessed Sacrament. Yet He has called each one of us to the glory which He has won for us, the glory to be able to look upon the face of His heavenly Father, as well as that of His own beautiful countenance. We will be able to look upon the face of Christ and glorify Him for eternity and God will indeed bless us and be gracious to us.

We struggle with that. To be able to hear those things, they are so beautiful and yet we recognize that we are not worthy of them - so we doubt. We doubt whether it is really true; we doubt whether God can love us that much; we doubt whether or not it could happen within us. But all we need to do in the face of our doubts is to look back 2,000 years ago to a beautiful young woman in the presence of an angel: The angel invites her to be the Mother of God. Imagine what happened in the heart of Our Lady. Of course, we have all the sin and all the problems and she did not have that - she was humble, most of us are not. She recognized what God wanted to do within her. We see that God has given us His grace. We see that He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and we see the glory that He has called us to, but imagine if an angel appeared to you and asked you to do something even remotely similar to what he asked of Our Lady. Who of us would say yes? We would come up with all the grand justifications of why this cannot happen just as we continue to do now - why God cannot really love us and call us to Himself and hold out heaven for us and allow us to be His sons and daughters and share in His life and share in His glory and behold Him face-to-face one day. We have trouble believing that. Yet we have absolute faith – and thanks be to God for that faith – that what Mary did was real: that she brought God to birth in human form, that she looked upon the face of God in that beautiful little face of a baby who is God, that she worshiped and glorified God from the first moment of her conception, and when she looked upon her own little tiny infant Son she continued to worship God in the person of her Son.

Mary said yes to God. And we owe to her an infinite debt of gratitude because were it not for her fiat when the angel asked her if she would be willing to be the Mother of God, none of us would be saved, none of us would have the opportunity to be freed from our sins so that we could be able to glorify God forever. We would not have Jesus Christ and we would not know the forgiveness of sin. We would not know the love of God in human form. All of that was dependent on the answer of a human woman.

And now God holds out to you an invitation to say yes, just as Our Lady did. Not to conceive Christ within the womb, for those who are female, but rather, to be able to accept the invitation of God for what He wants to do in your heart, in your soul, just as Our Lady said yes and conceived Christ first in her heart before she could ever conceive Him in her womb. She had to believe and she had to accept. In the face of all the doubts, in the face of all the things that did not make sense – How could God be man? How could God, who created me, be created in me? How could God, who does not have a beginning, suddenly have a beginning? How could a Person who is divine suddenly become human? How could One who is a little human baby be the Infinite and Almighty God? – Mary said yes: "Be it done unto me according to Thy word."

And so today, as the Lord holds out for you the beautiful gift of divine sonship which was already given to you at the moment you were baptized, He is asking, not that you keep it at an arm’s distance but that you let it in, that you shape your life around the reality of who you already are. Jesus looked at Thomas in the face of all his doubts and He said, "Doubt no longer, but believe." That is exactly what He says to each one of us tonight: "Doubt no longer, but believe." You are a member of Jesus Christ. You share in the divine life. You have been incorporated into the very essence of God. You are called to Heaven. You are called to holiness in this life. That is your dignity.

That is why you can call out, inspired by the Holy Spirit "Father!" Think of what that means to call God "Father". In just a few moments, we will all pray that together in the beautiful words that Jesus gave to us: Our Father. When the children of a family sit around the home, sit around the table and talk about their father, it is because they all recognize that they are children of their father, the same father. We call God "Our Father" because we are all His children. Do not keep that out there somewhere - let it in.

The easiest way to allow it in is to go to your mother. She is your mother. From the Cross, Jesus gave you to her, and He gave her to you. Look up at the crucifix and look at Our Lady standing right beneath it. Hear Our Lord speak in your heart: "Behold your mother." Your mother. She is your mother and she wants to lead you to her Son. She wants to incorporate you into the eternity of God. She wants you to be able to join her in praising God for all eternity. She wants you to be able to look upon the beautiful countenance of her Son. She wants you to share in the same mystery that took place within her and that she was able to look upon from the time that He was a little baby until the day that He was taken from her in this world. Now she has gone forth to look upon Him for all eternity. She wants you to be part of that.

And it is not very far from you. All you need to do is look at why you are here tonight. You can ask yourself where most of your family and friends are on this evening. They are probably out doing something which is not very virtuous. Some may, in fact, be steeped in mortal sin right now: willful drunkenness and all kinds of debauchery – in mortal sin. But you have chosen to come and be with God. You chose to reject the worldly ways which celebrate this evening, and you have come to the true celebration. Not what this world has [done in making] the beautiful word "celebration" equal with a party - that is not a celebration - but to be able to celebrate Christ and to be able to celebrate His mother on this glorious day. What a beautiful way to start the New Year. For those of you who have made your consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would strongly urge you on this day to renew that consecration. And if you have not consecrated yourself to Jesus through Mary, I strongly recommend that you do so as soon as possible.

If you look back over the events of the past year, there is lots of tragedy, lots of pain and sorrow and sadness. We bring those with us today and we place them in Our Lord’s chalice. We unite them with His suffering and offer them to our heavenly Father. But we must keep in mind that what we have seen is only the beginning of what will be. We need to prepare ourselves for that. The best way to do that is to give yourself to Our Lady and let her bring you to her Son.

Today, as we celebrate her divine maternity, we recognize the love of God in human form. God who is with us and will not abandon us, God who loves us so much that He took on our human nature. As Saint Paul says, "He took the form of a slave," - the one who is Master of all. We can trust Him. We can rely on Him. We can count on Him and never doubt. We should banish all doubts from our minds and keep our hearts focused on Jesus. Forget trying to make sense of it because it is not going to happen. Just accept.

When the angel told Mary that the power of the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and she would conceive, and the Son within her womb would be God, she simply said yes. It is an infinite mystery. Mary did not understand. We do not understand. All we can do is say yes. Let God work in your heart. Let Him call you. Let what is happening in your heart tonight continue, not only this night and this year, but throughout your whole life. Allow your life to be one of prayer, prayer with Our Lady, prayer focused on the face in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, united with her, gazing on the face of the Lord. That is what she wants for you, she who is your mother.

Remember what she said to Blessed Juan Diego 470 years ago, those beautiful words: "Am I not here, who am your mother?" Jesus is here with us and Mary is here with us. We have nothing to fear, but rather, we simply need to be filled with grace and gratitude. Look to them and remain with them and trust. "Do not let your hearts be troubled," Jesus said. And as we celebrate this glorious feast of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we recognize that we have no reason to be troubled about anything. God is with us. All things happen according to His plan, in His way.

When we look back 2,000 years ago and see the events that were taking place in and around the Holy Land – the Roman soldiers who had taken over, the way that the Jewish faith was not being lived by most of the people and even by most of the priests: it was a laughingstock, it was a mockery –in the midst of that God found a faithful virgin and she conceived and bore His Son. He found a faithful priest in Zechariah. He found Simeon and Anna, who were holy and faithful. We can look at all that 2,000 years ago and, from the objective birdseye view that we now have, we can see how God used all of that to bring about this greatest good of the Incarnation of His Son.

It is no different today. God has found you, holy and good. And He brings His Son to you, born of the Virgin Mary, born under the law to deliver from the law all those who were subjected to it so that we can enjoy the freedom of the children of God. That is the glory that He is calling you to. If we look around the world, we see the exact same kind of setup that we saw 2,000 years ago. God will use it all for His greater glory and to bring about an even greater event than what took place 2,000 years ago. All we need to do is trust and allow Our Lady to work. God worked the greatest miracle that humanity has ever known through Our Lady. And He continues to work through His mother in each one of us because she is our mother.

So we go to Our Lady, to our mother. We consecrate ourselves to her and we allow her to lead us in the path that her Son has laid out. We listen and we obey the words of our mother when she points to her Son and looks at us and says, "Do whatever He tells you." Whatever He tells you. It does not matter if it makes sense to you or not, just trust and do it. That is all that He is asking. He is God. He is not going to ask you to anything that will be bad for you. He is not going to ask you to do anything that will violate you. He wants only the very best for you. "Doubt no longer, but believe," and "do whatever He tells you." Learn from your mother, and when God calls you, say yes. Do not think that it has to be something extraordinary like what happened to Our Lady; chances are that an angel is not going to appear to you and ask you to do something extraordinary for God.

But God is calling you. God has called you from the moment of your Baptism. God is calling you now. You would not be here tonight if God did not call you here. Say yes. You said yes to Him already tonight to come here to be with Him. But now say yes with your life. Not just for a few hours, but for your whole life and for all eternity. When Our Lady said yes to the angel, she said yes to God and she said yes to everything that would follow from it. God is calling you in the depth of your heart, in the depth of your being. He is calling you by name. Our Lady simply says, "Do whatever He tells you." We learn from her to say fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum – Be it done unto me according to Thy word. That is all that is being asked. Say yes. Are we willing to do it, to allow God to be gracious to us and to bless us and to allow His face to shine upon us? That is what He is holding out to you right now. Say yes and allow the Lord to be born within your heart as He was in Our Lady’s. And look upon the face of God and glorify Him with your whole being.



*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.


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