Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
January 1, 2019 – Year C
Readings: Nm 6:22-27 / Ps 67 / Gal 4:4-7 / Lk 2:16-21
by Deacon Cassidy Stinson, Guest Homilist
I remember very clearly the first time I ever stayed up to celebrate New Year’s Eve as a child. It was the night before the start of the year 2000, the turn of the millennium, and I guess my parents decided that it was such a special occasion that they were willing to risk the chance of my getting crazy from lack of sleep to be able to see the event.
It was all very much like we did last night: celebrating at my grandparents’ house not far from here; fizzy cider for the kids, other beverages for the adults; and most of all, seeing the live countdown of the ball dropping in Times Square.
At the time, I really took it for granted that this was something to be excited about, but looking back on each of these celebrations, this year I stopped to wonder: Why do we care so much about the start of a new year? The short answer is: years, and time, are how we measure ourselves.
Look on social media today, and you’ll see everyone sharing their highlights from 2018, their achievements during the year, and the milestones they hit. Time is a constant in this life, and so it becomes a way to judge ourselves and the world around us. Have we kept our resolutions? Have we achieved our goals? Have we grown?
Today, of course, we are here celebrating this Solemnity not simply because we are marking the arbitrary passing of time, but rather to mark a much greater milestone in salvation history: the conclusion of the octave celebration of Christmas, the day of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
By extension, today we also honor and celebrate Mary, our Blessed Mother, whom we revere and praise above every other saint precisely because it was by her obedience and loving response to the will of God that the events of Christmas were brought about. This was more than a new year – It was a new era, the dawn of a new age in human history.
It is especially fitting that the Church celebrates Our Lady at the beginning of each calendar year, because just as she played a crucial role in bringing the light of her Son into the world, she has a unique and privileged role in each of our spiritual lives.
She does this especially in two ways: First, in modeling for us the life of a perfect disciple of Christ, and then in actually sharing the Lord’s own graces with us.
If you really wanted to measure your spiritual progress this past year, then take a look at the example of Our Lady, and ask yourself: Does my life look more like Mary’s than it did a year ago? Have I responded to God’s call in my heart with that same kind of obedience and trust? Have I lived with the same attitude of love, humility, and sheer joy at seeing the Lord’s will fulfilled in my life? Have I taken the time to ponder His actions and His words in my heart, as she did?
We can think of this as a Marian examination of conscience as we enter into this new year. And the next question is, what do we do with these areas we have identified where we still need to grow? That’s where Our Lady’s other key role comes in.
The lives and writings of the saints all testify that one of the surest and quickest ways to holiness, without exception, is to make regular prayer and devotion to our Blessed Mother a central part of our spiritual lives. As St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
She isn’t an impersonal force, or a distant figure that we only know in art and stories. She is our mother. She loves us with all her Immaculate Heart, and she wants nothing more than to reach out to us, to comfort us in our difficulties, to give us strength, and the grace, and the power to fight against the forces of sin that would seek to tear us away from her Son. All of our love for Mary naturally leads to love of her Son because her whole life, and all of her love, always point us on to Christ.
That’s why one of the greatest forms of Marian prayer in the tradition of the Church, and one which I encourage you to pick up if it’s not already a practice in your prayer life, is the recitation of the rosary. The rosary presents us with the core of Marian devotion, because in praying the mysteries, we are meditating on the essential elements of Christ’s own life, with Mary.
Second, if you really want to take your spiritual life to the next level, I strongly encourage you to read about the practice of Marian consecration. This is the practice of making a serious commitment and consecrating your life, your vocation, and your actions totally to Our Lady, so that she will purify them and use them in the most effective way possible to lead you and those around you closer to God.
Specifically, I recommend you look up online the book, “33 Days to Morning Glory,” by Father Michael Gaitley, which will guide you in a month-long, do-it-at-home retreat in making that consecration. And if you’re already familiar with that book, I also strongly recommend St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary,” which will help you really deepen the spirit of that consecration. These are just some of the powerful, practical ways to make Our Lady part of your life.
Regardless of how you do it, I urge you, if you’re going to make any resolutions at all for 2019, make it a serious commitment to model your life on Mary, our Blessed Mother, and to let her love and her prayer shape your own as we enter into this new year.
Protected in the mantle of our Blessed Mother, strengthened by the graces she has obtained for us, there is no sin, no darkness, no evil that will stand against the power of her love for us and for her Divine Son.
Today, as we prepare to receive Him in communion with Mary and all the saints in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we entrust our parish, our families, and our lives to her Immaculate Heart, as we pray:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.