Monday, January 01, 2018

Why the Church Calls Mary the ‘Mother of God’

(Mary, the Mother of God 2018: This homily was given on January 1, 2018 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Galatians 4: 4-7; Luke 2: 16-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Mary, the Mother of God 2018]

Calling Mary the “Mother of God” confuses some people.  Actually it confuses a lot of people!  They say, “How can God have a mother?  To say that Mary is God’s mother implies that she existed before God did—which makes no sense and is clearly wrong.  God is the one who gives existence to everyone—and to everything.”

This, of course, is a complete misunderstanding of what the Church means when she calls Mary the Mother of God.  What the Church is actually telling us in that title is something very important about Jesus and his identity.  It’s telling us that Jesus was (and is) a divine Person.  Yes, he had a human nature as well as a divine nature, but he was a divine Person: the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who took on human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Mother.

So, on Christmas day, Mary did not give birth to a human person; rather, she gave birth to a divine Person: a divine Person who had both a divine and a human nature!  Therefore, in that sense, she can rightly be called the “Mother of God.”

In fact, you could call Mary the “earthly Mother of a divine Person” and it would mean the same thing.

When I was a student at Providence College in the late 1970s, I was taking a theology exam one day that had several true or false questions on it.  One of those questions was this one: Jesus was a fully human person.  True or false?  I said, “True”—which, of course, was wrong.  And it shocked me when I got the test back, because I didn’t fully understand the theological distinction at the time.  Now the interesting thing is, if the statement had been: Jesus was fully human.  True or false? then the right answer would have been “True”, since, as Scripture says, Jesus was a man like us in all things but sin.

“Fully human”—yes!  “A fully human person”—no!

Ever since I got that exam question wrong I’ve never forgotten this teaching and this truth.  But it’s easy to do.  In fact, recently I was previewing some of the videos that we’re going to use in our Bible study on the Gospel of Mark, and I discovered that on one of them the presenter—a woman who has an advanced degree in theology—refers to Jesus as a human person 3 or 4 times!

She, of all people, should know better!

So it’s a common mistake.

I share this with you today because it reminds us of the dignity and power of our Blessed Mother!  Of all the women who’ve lived on planet earth since the fall of Adam and Eve, Mary was the one the heavenly Father chose to bring a divine Person—his divine Son—into this world.  The Father also entrusted Mary (and Joseph) with the task of raising his Son: the task of nurturing him and protecting him and educating him.  Remember, because Jesus had a human nature he could grow, as Scripture tells us, “in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.”

Mary was largely responsible for that growth and progress of Jesus in his human nature.

Now the good news is, because we’re Mary’s adopted children, she will also assist us in our growth and progress in the faith, if we seek her prayers and help.  That’s why it’s so good to begin each year by focusing on Mary.  Our primary goal on January 1 every year should not be to get rid of the 10 pounds we put on during the month of December (although that would probably be a good idea!).  Our primary goal on January 1 should be to grow and progress spiritually during the next 52 weeks, and become better disciples of Jesus Christ.

So today we begin the new year of 2018 by seeking that grace through the powerful intercession of our Blessed Mother as we say one Hail Mary together:  Hail Mary …