Friday, January 01, 2016

Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the World

(Mary, the Mother of God 2016: This homily was given on January 1, 2016 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Luke 2: 16-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Mary, the Mother of God 2016]

“Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the World.”

Prior to a few days ago:

·         I could imagine myself saying that.
·         I could imagine the Holy Father saying that.
·         I could imagine almost any bishop, priest or deacon saying that.
·         I could imagine a devout, dedicated Catholic lay person saying that.

What I could NOT imagine is the people at a secular publication like National Geographic saying that.

But they did!

In fact, they had those very words—along with a picture of our Blessed Mother—on the front cover of their December 2015 issue.

And the article on Mary in the magazine itself was very well done!  It was respectful, interesting—and informative.

And they say miracles don’t happen.

They most certainly do!

After I read the article, I began to reflect on its title a little bit more: Mary: The Most Powerful Woman in the World.

What, exactly, makes her so powerful?  What, exactly, made her so powerful when she walked the face of this earth 2,000 years ago?  It was certainly not her social status, or her political clout, or the size of her bank account—which are things that we normally associate with power and with powerful people.  Mary was a poor, humble maiden from Nazareth, not a rich socialite or a famous politician.

And for that we should thank God!—because Mary, by her simple and humble life, shows us what real power is all about, and where real power is to be found.

So what made Mary powerful during her earthly life?

Number 1 has to be her ability to resist temptation and sin.  Bishop Sheen used to say, “In a football game, which offensive lineman really knows the strength of the onrushing defensive lineman he’s playing against?  Is it the offensive lineman who gets beaten on the play and allows the quarterback to be sacked, or is it the offensive lineman who stands firm and is able to keep the quarterback safe?”

The answer, of course, is “The second—the one who stands firm and resists.” 

Mary was like that lineman, because she was without sin.  We, unfortunately, have often been like the first, since we’ve all been annihilated by temptation many times!  But Mary never was.  She always and everywhere resisted.

That’s power!  That’s real power.

What also made Mary powerful was her ability to avoid hatred and her ability to love her enemies.  Let me ask you: If you had a child, and some people came along and killed that precious child of yours right before your eyes, how would you respond?

Needless to say, it would take an incredible amount of power and strength to avoid falling into hatred (even for a short time) in a situation like that.

But Mary did avoid it.  We know that because hatred is a sin and we know that Mary never sinned.  So is unforgiveness a sin; thus another thing that made Mary powerful was her ability to forgive, and to forgive immediately.

She even forgave the people who murdered her Son.

And how about her ability to put the needs of others before her own?  That’s yet another example of Mary’s power.  Think of her love and concern for her elderly cousin, Elizabeth.  Once Mary found out that Elizabeth was with child, she went immediately to her cousin’s house to give Elizabeth the assistance she needed at that time.  And Mary stayed there until John the Baptist was born—even though she was pregnant herself, and had her own special needs in that pregnancy.

Which brings us to the issue of trust—specifically the issue of trusting God.  Sometimes things happen in this life that we don’t fully understand, and in those moments trusting in the Lord can be extremely difficult.  From the human perspective everything seems to be in disarray, and nothing seems to make any sense.  Mary, too, had those moments (especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday), but she always trusted—which is why she was there at the foot of her Son’s cross on Good Friday afternoon.

She suffered; but she had the ability to suffer with love—which is yet another example of her power!  

As I prepared this homily, I realized that there are many examples of power—real power—in the life of our Blessed Mother.  However I’ll mention just one more today—one that I think is very important for all of us to hear, since we are weak and sinful human beings who tend to say things when we should keep quiet, and to keep quiet when we should say things:

Mary had the strength—the incredible inner strength—to be silent whenever she needed to be silent (which was most of the time); but when she did need to speak up—when she discerned that there was something Almighty God wanted her to say—she did.  Always!

“Be it done unto me according to your word.”

“[Son] they have no wine.”

“The Almighty has done great things for me, holy is his name.”

“Do whatever [my Son Jesus] tells you.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, most powerful of all women, pray for us on this New Year’s Day.  Pray first of all that we will understand that real power in this life does not come from social or political status or from the size of our bank account, but rather from being faithful to God—faithful like you were—especially when we’re tempted to be unfaithful.  Pray that we will seek that power and live in that power and witness to that power always—just like you did.  Amen.