Mary, Mother of God

Mary, Mother of God

In this beautiful homily for Mary, Mother of God, Year C, Father Hanly looks at the gentle girl-child who becomes the Mother of God and then mother to us all.

Readings for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Year C

  • First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
  • Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7
  • Gospel: Luke 2:16-21



Don’t be afraid. I’ve got my voice back. (Congregation laughs.)

Today is a very happy day. It’s January 1st and, as we all know, January 1st is Happy New Year day. And we have a right to be happy, especially because today is a very, very special feast day. It’s the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

Sometimes people wonder how can we call Mary the Mother of God?

Well, we know why we call Mary the Mother of God. Because God has chosen her, and He has chosen her to carry within her heart and her soul and her body the infant, Jesus himself, the Son of God. And because he is the Son of God, naturally, she is the Mother of God.

I think that the confusion comes as we forget that Jesus is both filled with God’s love – his Father – but Jesus in his mother’s womb receives the flesh and the life and the humanity of his mother. And that is why he, of course, is indeed the Son of God, before all ages, born for all ages and to the end of all time.

The way we begin today’s feast day is an entrance antiphon is sung. They sang such a song as an introduction. I will read you an entrance antiphon that is quite important for this day. And this is how we open the Mass for today. It’s very short.

Our praise, our honor and our love for Mary on this her solemn Feast Day. And then the heart of that is:

Hail Holy Mother who gave birth to the King who rules heaven and earth.

Today a bright light from heaven shines upon us all, for Mary’s child is born for us. And the child, who is called Prince of Peace and Son of God, who reigns forever, is, indeed, Mary’s Child.

And as the scripture says: the word is made flesh and dwells amongst us… the Son of God, who we now call our brother in the flesh, wondrous wonder to behold.

And all this made possible because a young illiterate girl from an obscure country village, says, in a moment of time, “yes” to the messenger sent by God: “Be it done to me according to thy word.”

And the bonds of marriage are made again not just between God and the child Mary, but between heaven and earth. And the terrible divisions that have been a part of Adam’s sin and the failure to love God as God loves us, this terrible failure among us is quietly restored by the faith and love of a gentle girl-child.

Yes, hail Mary, you are “full of grace” (God’s overflowing love) and the Lord is with thee today, tomorrow and for all eternity, blessed art thou amongst women…and blessed the fruit of your womb, Jesus, the child you carry.

This is what we celebrate this day. Hail to Mother Mary, Hail to thee, Mother of God.

Mary is with us. We forget that. We are always saying God is with us, but Mary is with us. Mary is with us. Her presence and her motherly love we celebrate.

And I’ll give a little aside. When I was in my twenties, I was about three years away. I was in the seminary. I was three years away for ordination to the priesthood, after which I was sent to Taiwan. At that period of my life, I was quite preoccupied with many things.

But one of the things that I was not preoccupied with was, all of a sudden, I received a call from our local superior and he said, “Your mother is seriously sick and she’s in the hospital.”

And, naturally, I said, “I will go to her,” because the hospital wasn’t that far away.

And then he reminded me that, and this is true in the old days, if you were in your final years of ordination, you already belonged to the Church. And the rule was, very strict rules, the rules were no-one was allowed to leave and go and return to their family unless they had very special permission.

And so I was (inaudible) even then, although this was common in convents, in seminaries and these places, you couldn’t just come and go as you pleased, and it had to be the most serious, serious thing that would make you leave the seminary and go to where you had to go.

Now that’s changed a lot, for many reasons. That has changed for the better.

But at that time, I could not be consoled. And so I went into the church and went to the chapel and I prayed. That didn’t do any good. And I walked around and that didn’t do any good. And I was full of myself.

Then suddenly somebody came and they passed me an envelope and it was a letter from my mother. And here’s what the letter said:

“Dear Denis,
Do not worry. I have wrapped myself in Mother Mary’s cloak and she will hold me and take good care of me.

And I remember, when I was young, she used to have these little jingles for us. Every time we ran into something kind of hopeless and helpless and we were about ready to stop praying, she’d say, “It’s okay. Mary is with us. Mary is with us. Mary loves us. Mary loves us. Mary loves us in our laughter and Mary loves us in our tears.”

What she was trying to instil in us was whenever there is trouble, look to Mary. Look to Mary.

And so I prayed and prayed and prayed. And, of course, three days later they said she survived the operation. And then I was able to write a letter to her.

But the moment was over, and the moment was this: that there is a time when you must trust Mary. You must trust her. You must lay before her and say, “Please Mary,” as you used to do to your mother when you were little children.

Remember, Jesus always says this, you are always little children. You must become little children. If you’re not little children you’re not worth the trouble.

Anyhow it gave me room for thought, and it gave me room to ponder, and it gave me a lot of room to think of Mary, our Mother, a little bit more than I usually do.

At the cross Jesus looks down on his mother, standing there with his disciple John. What words does he say: “Behold your son.” Jesus tells his mother that her vocation is not over and will not end with his death on the cross. But she is to serve the brothers and sisters just as she has served him, with a generous and joyful heart.

And then Christ looks at his disciple John and says: “Behold your mother.” And thus he gives his mother the hands of his disciples, who are sent to serve the people of the world.

It is Mary, then, who leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to learn from his mother how to love and how to serve. For as Mary was once counted as only the mother of Jesus, her son now asks her to become not only his Mother and Mother of us all.

The Lord wills to let his face shine upon us, through the face of the Mother of God.

And in the words of the famous writer of the last century, G.K. Chesterton: “We serve a Mother who seems to grow more beautiful as new generations rise up and call her blessed.”

And that is why we call her Mother Mary, and why we celebrate with great joy this special New Year’s Day in which we renew our love and affection for Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our mother, on this her most Solemn Feast Day.

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