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