Sunday, January 01, 2012

Mary, Us—and the Moon

(Mary, the Mother of God, 2012: This homily was given on January 1, 2012, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Mary, the Mother of God 2012]

When you look up into the sky at night and see the moon, do you ever think of Mary, our Blessed Mother?

You should—and so should I.

This is something I became aware of when I was on retreat last month.  The priest who said Mass on the first morning of the retreat (which happened to be the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) made this comparison, which he told me afterward he had read in a book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

That didn’t surprise me; it definitely sounded like something Sheen would say.

And it’s a great analogy, first of all because the moon is not the source of its own light; rather, it reflects light from the sun (sun there is spelled s-u-n). 

Well, Mary does something similar.  As many of us know, some non-Catholic Christians accuse us of “worshipping” the Blessed Mother, as if we think that Mary is equal to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the 3 divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

But that’s not true.  As Catholics we don’t worship Mary, we honor her—precisely because she reflected the light of the Son (in this case, Son is spelled capital S-o-n!).

What the moon does in the natural dimension of reality, Mary does in the supernatural dimension—which is why the moon is such a fitting symbol for her and her life.  She was not the source of the light she radiated to other people (please tell that to your Protestant friends!): the source was God, the source was her divine Son, Jesus Christ.  As she said in her Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness OF THE LORD; my spirit finds joy in God, MY SAVIOR.”

But she didn’t just reflect the light of God’s truth and love every once in awhile, or when she happened to feel like it; she did it ALL THE TIME!  That’s why, properly speaking, she’s like the FULL moon.  When the moon is full, the side facing the earth is fully lit up.  No part of it, visible to us, is in darkness.

That’s a perfect symbol for the SINLESS Virgin Mary.

Some of you heard my homily on December 8, the feast of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.  In that homily, you will recall, I mentioned a recent Christmas special on Canadian television that had in it a comedy sketch which involved the Holy Family.  Now what upset me about this show was the fact that they hired none other than Pamela Anderson, of Playboy and Baywatch fame, to portray Mary in this sketch!

That was blasphemous—because when we think of Mary, our next thought should not be Pamela Anderson!  Ever!  Nor, for that matter, should it be you or I.  When we think of Mary, our next thought after that should always be Jesus Christ, her divine Son, whose love and truth she perfectly reflected during her time here on earth. 

So where do Pamela Anderson and the rest of us come into the picture?  Where do we fit into all this?  Well, it’s really very simple.  To use the image I’m focusing on in this homily: If Mary is like the full moon, then each of us, spiritually speaking, is like the moon in one of its many other “phases.” 

That statement, I suppose, needs a bit of an explanation.

Because the moon orbits around the earth roughly once a month, the amount of light it reflects toward us is constantly changing, depending on where it is in its cycle.  For example, when the earth is directly between the moon and the sun, we have a full moon, because the sun’s light hits the entire surface of the moon that’s visible to us on earth.  But there’s another point in the cycle when the moon is directly between us and the sun, which is called the “new moon” phase.  At that point we don’t see the moon at all from the earth, even on a crystal clear night.  It appears not to be there.  And, of course, in between the full moon and the new moon there are a number of other phases: during the days between the new moon and the full moon the amount of light reflected increases or “waxes”; in the days between the full moon and the next new moon the amount of light reflected decreases or “wanes”.

You didn’t know you were coming to an astronomy class today, did you?

Well, my point here is not to give a science lesson; my point here is to illustrate a spiritual truth.  If a person is in the state of mortal sin, in a certain sense he’s like a “new moon”—in other words, he’s not reflecting the light of Christ at all in his soul!  As the Catechism states in paragraph 1855, mortal sin “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.”

I pray there are no “new moons” here today.  But if there are, remember that the remedy is readily available.  It’s called confession!

A good examination of conscience, followed by a thorough and honest confession, can immediately turn a “new moon,” spiritually speaking, into a “waxing moon”—and that waxing can continue throughout the person’s life, such that he or she reflects more and more of the light of the Son (capital S-o-n) as time goes on.

In the 4th century a young man named Augustine lived like a new moon for many years—he slept around; he lived with a woman to whom he was not married; he even fathered a child out of wedlock.  But eventually the prayers of his saintly mother brought him to conversion, and from that moment until the end of his life, he became a “waxing moon,” so to speak, to the point that we now refer to him as Saint Augustine.

So there’s always hope—even for Pamela Anderson (and I’m serious about that!).

Because we’re sinners, we’ll never be a “full moon” like Mary—until we get to heaven.

But we can be a “waxing moon” from now on, if, by the grace of God, we choose to be.

And we can begin that process by making some spiritual New Year’s resolutions, which I invite you to do today.  Here are just a few suggestions:

  1. Resolve to be faithful to Mass every Sunday and holy day—even when you’re on vacation!  It always amazes me how many Catholics think that it’s ok to take a vacation from Mass when they’re on vacation from work or school!  Well, it’s not ok!  It’s a serious sin that needs to be confessed—before you go back to receiving Holy Communion.
  2. And how about going to Mass once in awhile during the week—when you don’t have to?  Believe it or not we have 75 to 100 people who come here to Mass every single day—at 7am!  And others go to Mass every day at Immaculate or St. Clare’s at 8.  Ask them how beneficial it is, if you don’t believe me.
  3. Another resolution to consider: Examine your conscience every day, and get to confession at least once every month or two.  And do that even if you’re not aware of any serious sins in your life.  A person who’s like a “waxing moon” will be growing in his awareness of even the little sins he commits, and will want to confess those things frequently.  This explains why many of the great saints went to confession on a daily basis (or at least once a week).
  4. Another possible resolution: Read the Bible for at least 5 minutes a day.  (If you say you don’t have 5 minutes, then re-arrange your life because you’re way too busy.  Everyone can find 5 minutes if they try hard enough!)
  5. Another resolution to consider: Pray the Rosary every day.  Many of the canonized saints have hailed the Rosary as a great spiritual weapon against the evil we all have to face in the world.  If you don’t have a lot of extra time, keep the radio off and say the Rosary while you’re driving your car to work or to school or to some other place.  I have the Scriptural Rosary on CD (where a little Scripture verse is read between each Hail Mary).  I use it in my car all the time.  I love it because those Scripture verses help me stay focused. 
  6. Finally, you could resolve to make a Holy Hour at least once a week; or, if you don’t have that large a block of time to spare, resolve to stop into a Catholic Church a couple of times a week to make a brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament.  That’s a great way to bring your intentions to the Lord and to get “re-focused” in the midst of the rat race of life!

Those are just some of the possible resolutions we can make if we want to reflect more of the light of the capital S-o-n in our life.   

Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, may each of us follow through on at least some of these resolutions in the new year of 2012—and every year thereafter.