January 1, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier  Holy Mary, Mother of God
Reading I (Numbers 6:22-27)    Reading II (Galatians 4:4-7)
Gospel (St. Luke 2:16-21)

*** Homily for Midnight Mass ***
 
Today we celebrate the Octave Day of Christmas, the eighth day. We celebrate also the beginning of a new calendar year and we begin it in a most appropriate fashion, that is, by dedicating it all to our Blessed Lady. Everything has been given over to her Son, and her Son has given everything over to her. It is through her that her Son, Our Lord, came into this world; and it is through her that we are to go back to Him. And as we celebrate today the feast of her divine maternity – Mary, the Mother of God – we recognize also from the second reading today, from Saint Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, her spiritual maternity, that we too have become children of God, that we can call God “Our Father”, that the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary in order to conceive Jesus in her womb is the same Holy Spirit given to each one of us crying out in our hearts “Abba, Father,” making us sons and daughters of God, making us heirs of God, heirs with Christ, heirs to eternal life. But the inheritance is God Himself.
 
We must understand that all of these gifts, which God has given to us, are possible only because of one thing, and that is that this wonderful woman said “yes”. God chose her from all eternity to be the mother of His Son and yet in no way would God force her to do anything. So He sends an angel to ask the question if she would be Mother of God. At that time, Our Lady – who is the most humble person ever to have walked the face of the earth – had to recognize what the Will of God was and that in her humility God was going to exalt her with a gift which would be infinitely beyond anything else that any other human creature would ever begin to understand.
 
We heard in the first reading, from the Book of Numbers, the blessing that God was going to give to the Israelites and the way they were to bless one another. They were to pray that God would bless them and keep them and that He would allow His countenance to shine upon them and be gracious to them. But with Mary, God came to dwell within her. He did not just shine upon her; He shone through her. At the time she went in the Visitation to see Elizabeth and prayed her Magnificat and said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” it is no longer God allowing His face to shine upon her from the outside looking in, but rather God is magnified in Our Lady’s soul from the inside out. Only in Our Lady could that be done fully. God dwells in each one of us in His Indwelling Presence – provided, of course, that we are in the state of grace – but none of us can say that we have experienced what Our Lady did. Our Lord dwells within each one of us every time we receive Holy Communion: He is substantially present within us – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – the fullness of His Person is there within us. But He is there in a sacramental form, whereas, in Our Lady, He was there in a physical form. When Our Lady went to Mass, after Our Lord had ascended into Heaven, she would receive from the hand of Saint John the Holy Eucharist and once again she would be able to hold her Son in the fullness of His being in her heart. But even with that, it was still in a completely different manner than what she held Him in her womb for nine months.
 
Within the pure womb of Our Lady there is love beyond anything that we can begin to comprehend. Mary loves more than all of humanity and all of the angels combined. All of Heaven and earth combined, every single saint that has ever walked the face of the earth, all of them combined, cannot even come close to the love that Mary has for Jesus. And what a gift that God did not reserve her for Himself! But God – who is never going to be outdone in generosity – chose Our Lady for Himself and then turns right around and gives her to us so that she would be our mother. And because each one of us in Baptism is incorporated into her Son, she has the same kind of love for us that she has for her Son. This is something we cannot even begin to comprehend: that God has more glory from this one creature than He receives from all of the other creatures combined including all of the cherubim and all of the seraphim in Heaven. He receives more love and more glory from this one human creature than from every other creature combined. And in His love for us, He has given her to us so that we would be members of her Son, so that we could call God “Our Father”, and in so doing, we can call Mary “Our mother”.
 
 We, each one of us, was conceived in Our Lady; not the same way as Our Lord was, obviously. Each one of us was conceived in the heart of Our Lady and she carried us there, and she continues to carry us there as only a mother can do. We heard in the Gospel reading that all of the things that were said to Mary by the shepherds about what they had seen and heard from the angels – and when they came to see the Baby they spoke to everyone about what they had seen and heard – we are told that Mary kept all of these things in her heart and she pondered them. What a gift that God has also given to her innumerable other mysteries: each one of us. A mystery even to our own selves, He has placed us in her heart, in her maternal heart. There she holds us and she ponders this day and night as she prays for us and desires for us to be able to be with her for all eternity. But in her maternal heart, she cares for us, she nourishes us, she builds us up, she forms us into the very image of her Son if we are willing to allow her to do so. The best of all mothers, she will never force us to do anything; but rather, she shows to us the goodness of what it is she wants to do and then gives us the choice of whether or not we will do it. All that we need to do is exactly what she did, to say to the angel, “Fiat mihi secundum verbum Tuum.” “Be it done unto me according to Thy word,” and the Word became flesh within Our Lady’s womb. And that is the same Word – Jesus Christ – whom she wants to form within us. She wants to form us into her Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what she wants to do in our hearts, in our lives. She wants to make us to be the very image of her Son Jesus Christ.
 
If we stop to think about it, through the power of the Holy Spirit not only can we say that God became man in the womb of Our Lady but we can say that the humanity of Christ was formed within Our Lady. The very Person whom the apostles knew as Jesus Christ was formed by our Blessed Mother. And if we now are members of Jesus Christ through water and the Holy Spirit, we too are called to be formed in the same way. Our Lady only knows how to form people in one image: in the image of the One she has already formed within herself. And if she is going to form us, she is going to form us to be exactly like her Son Jesus because we are members of Jesus Christ and we are to be like Him in all things. So if we are willing to say “yes”, if we are willing to be humble like Our Lady was, if we are willing to allow Our Lady and the Holy Spirit to form us, we will become the perfect image of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that is greater than that.
 
The question has to do with our willingness. It is what we want – there is no doubt. I am sure if we took a poll and asked how many of us wanted to be formed into Jesus Christ, I would hope that we would have a unanimous acceptance of such an offer. So the problem is not in the want; the problem is in the will. Are we willing to allow it to happen? Are we willing to allow Our Lady to form us? That means to get rid of everything in us which is not Jesus Christ. And that is where most of us begin to back-paddle because somehow, for whatever reason, we like the parts of us that are not godly. We are very much attached to the things that are not Jesus Christ, and when Our Lady lets us know that we need to give this up, we begin to fight. Most of us even walk away and we say that it is enough just to be a mediocre Christian: “After all, that is what the majority of Christians are so I’ll fit in pretty well with most of them.” That is not the way Our Lady lived her life and that is not the way Our Lord lived His life. We need to be formed, not in mediocrity, but in holiness. We need to be formed, not according to the image of this world, but into the image of Jesus Christ. There is only one person whom God has given to us to form us into Christ and that is the one whom He gave to form Jesus in the first place, and that is Our Lady.
 
So as we begin this new year, as we celebrate this glorious feast in honor of her divine maternity, each one of us is being offered a gift. We are being given an offer that we should not refuse, and that is an offer to allow Our Lady to form us as she formed her Son, to form us to become Jesus Christ. I urge you – as we continue to pray this Mass, and especially as you prepare yourself to receive Holy Communion – on your knees before the Lord, give yourself to Jesus through Mary. Ask Our Lord, through Our Lady’s intercession, to send the Holy Spirit down upon you to fill your heart with His love and with His grace, and to form you into the very image of the One whom you are about to receive and be one with in the Eucharist. Ask Our Lady to give to you her thoughts and her heart as you receive Our Lord to love Him as she loves Him, to have the same kind of disposition as you receive Holy Communion that she had when she received Holy Communion. Think of the love with which Our Lady received Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and then ask yourself, “Is that the way I receive Jesus?” We need to allow ourselves to be formed. Give yourself to Jesus through Mary and say with Mary, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word,” the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ made man in the womb of Mary. “Make me into the image of the Word, your Son, and be it done unto me according to Your Word.”


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


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