I couldn’t record my homily today, so I typed it instead. I hope you enjoy reading.
Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Happy New Year!
In many Asian cultures, it is very important to start the new year off right. The children try to treat elders with the utmost respect and be as good as possible on this day so that the New Year gets off to a good start. We have all started off right by coming to Mass today on the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.
This feast used to be called the feast of the Circumcision. The Mosaic law prescribed circumcision eight days after birth. On this day, Jesus received his circumcision. In celebrating this feast, we recalled that Jesus was a Jewish child. He was raised according to all the laws and traditions and cultures of the Jewish people. Early Christian writers recognized in this day the sacrifice of Jesus. This was the first time Jesus shed his blood. This little sacrifice called to mind how Christ had come to save us by the shedding of his blood.
In the modern calendar, the focus of the feast has shifted to the Motherhood of Mary, with the consequence that men are much more comfortable. Mary, the Mother of God — what does it mean? Mary offered her Motherhood in the service of God. She received the Divine Life, carried it in her womb, and then birthed this life into the world. Mary made the sacrifice of her own body, her own life, so that we could receive the our Savior and Eternal Life. In doing so, she has become the model of all motherhood.
What does Mary show us about Motherhood? Motherhood is about new life. It is about receiving life, nurturing that life, and bringing it forth into the world. Only women are capable of carrying a new human life. However, motherhood doesn’t stop with the birthing of a child. In addition the the purely biological motherhood, there is something more important. We human beings are both biological and spiritual. The biological reality points to a more fundamental Spiritual reality. In this case, the biological gift that is Motherhood points to the more important reality of Spiritual Motherhood. A woman named Katrina Zeno in her book Every Woman’s Journey defines spiritual motherhood as, “nurturing the emotional, moral, cultural, and spiritual life of others.”
It is uniquely the woman’s gift to nurture in this way. Pope John Paul II called this gift, “The Genius of Women”. A genius is someone who can do things the rest of us cannot do. Michaelangelo and Leonardo were geniuses. They could take paint and create something fantastic. They could take an ordinary block of marble and create something new and beautiful from it. In the same way, a woman can do something no other person can do. She can nurture the emotional, moral, cultural and spiritual life of others. This is the genius of women.
If a woman does not fulfill her role of Spiritual Motherhood, no one can take her place. Just as a man cannot bear a child, so a man cannot be a Spiritual Mother. When a woman is in labor, the man is forced to stand idly by. As much as he might like to help, the woman has to do all the work. But the fact that he is standing by is very important. The fact that a man is standing by to help, and is there to catch the baby, makes a huge difference in the life of both the mother and the child. A man must never discount his role simply because the woman seems to be taking care of things. Men support, protect and help women in their role as Spiritual Mothers. I cannot tell you how many women I have talked to who have suffered greatly because the men around them did not accept their motherhood, be it biological or spiritual. The men wanted women to be something else besides mothers, and in doing so harmed not only the women, but the whole human family. A man indeed plays a marvelous role in the Spiritual Motherhood of women.
Today we celebrate Motherhood. We celebrate the fact that Mary sacrificed her life and her body to bring the world a savior. We celebrate all the sacrifices that every woman makes in living as a spiritual mother. Today, baby Jesus bled for us in a small sacrifice. His small sacrifices would add up to our salvation. In the same way, Mary’s many small sacrifices added up to the Savior. Every human being owes its life to the Motherhood of a woman; we owe our Eternal Life to the Motherhood of the woman named Mary. She received the Divine Life, nurtured it, and birthed him into the world. She gave birth not only to his life, but to the entire Christian World. As we celebrated the 2009th Year of Our Lord, we entrust the coming year to the Motherhood of Mary. May she teach us how to receive the Divine Life, nurture it, and give birth to Christ in our world today.
1 Jan. 2009