Mary, Mother of God 2016

Published: December 31, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God at St. Monica Church in Edmond, Okla. on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015.

Bishop Taylor

Every year I look forward to coming back to St. Monica to celebrate this New Year's Eve Mass with you. It has been 23 years since we founded this parish and 13 years since I was transferred from here to Sacred Heart and now you are already on your fourth pastor.

I want to thank Father Hamilton for inviting me to celebrate this Mass with you once again. When I left here in 2003, I said that it felt like I was walking my daughter down the aisle to entrust her to another man, but like with any father whose daughter has grown up and moved on, you remain close to my heart and I include you in my prayers.

Today's readings on the feast of Mary the Mother of God are about growing up and moving on, quite appropriate also for New Year's Day when we reflect on the past and look to the future.

Our obedience is now rooted in listening to God with an open heart, embracing in our own lives the cross of sacrificial love, confident that we will also share in his victory over sin and death.

In our first reading from Numbers, the Lord tells Moses how to bless the people as they look to the future: "... The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!" Notice that while Moses and the Israelites will have plenty to do in the future and will be tested severely at times, it will be the Lord who brings their efforts to fruition.

If the Lord blesses their efforts, they will have shalom, which is not just "peace" in the narrow sense of absence of war. Rather it means "well-being" in every sense of the term. Health, security, all their needs met. Of course, if their efforts are expended in the pursuit of things not worthy of the Lord, the results will be disastrous.

Our second reading takes this thought a step further in the light of the birth of Jesus, the ultimate expression of God's graciousness and kindliness for our well-being. It is in Jesus that the Lord's face shines upon us most fully.

Prior to Jesus, people understood the Old Covenant as basically the result of a transfer of ownership from the false god Pharaoh to the one true God. They had been slaves of Pharaoh and had to do what he said, like it or not. Now they belong to God and have to do what he says ... the Hebrew word for believer literally means "slave."

We see Mary refer to herself in this way in the Magnificat: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant"— our English renders the word as "servant" but the text actually says "his lowly slave" and this is retained in the Spanish as well as most other versions.

So it is remarkable that St. Paul says that this has all changed with Jesus and the New Covenant: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons ... so you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God."

So now we do God's will, not under the constraint of the Old Covenant because we are slaves, obligated to do what our master says, or else, we do so freely in the New Covenant of grace. Our obedience is now rooted in listening to God with an open heart, embracing in our own lives the cross of sacrificial love, confident that we will also share in his victory over sin and death.

And isn't that precisely what Mary did, whose motherhood we celebrate today. She listened to God with an open heart when Gabriel came to invite her to risk everything in order to do God's will and bring our Savior into the world and then all the other events of Jesus' nativity and childhood.

Our text says "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." It is for that reason that she is not only the mother of the Church, she is also the model for all believers.

As we begin this new year, let us resolve to set aside time every day — I recommend every morning and especially time spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in our chapel here — for us also to take the time to listen to God with an open heart. Especially when God asks us to take risks in order to do God's will in our lives ... in this way, God will use us to bring our Savior into the world in which we live. Right here in Edmond, in the year of the Lord, 2016!