Thought for the Day – 1 January – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord
Pope Francis’ Homily on
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
1 January 2019
“All who heard were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (Lk 2:18). To be amazed -this is what is asked of us today, at the conclusion of the Octave of Christmas, as we continue to contemplate the Child born for us, lacking everything, yet abounding in love. Amazement is what we should feel at the beginning of each year, for life is a gift that constantly gives us a chance to make a new start, even from the most lowly of circumstances.
Today is also a day to be amazed by the Mother of God. God appears as a little child, held in the arms of a woman who feeds her Creator. The statue before our eyes depicts the Mother and Child so close as to appear as one. That is the mystery we celebrate today, which gives rise to boundless amazement – God has become one with humanity forever. God and man, always together, that is the good news of this new year. God is no distant lord, dwelling in splendid isolation above the heavens but love incarnate, born like us of a mother, in order to be a brother to each of us, to be close to us – the God of closeness. He rests on the lap of His mother, who is also our mother and from there he pours out upon humanity a new tenderness. Thus we come to understand more fully God’s love, which is both paternal and maternal, like that of a mother who never stops believing in her children and never abandons them. God-with-us, Emmanuel, loves us despite our mistakes, our sins and the way we treat our world. God believes in mankind, because its first and pre-eminent member is His own Mother.
At the beginning of the year, let us implore from Mary the grace to be amazed at the God of surprises. Let us renew the amazement we felt when faith was first born in us. The Mother of God helps us – the Mother who gave birth to the Lord, now presents us, reborn, to the Lord. She is a mother who generates in her children the amazement of faith, because faith is an encounter, not a religion. Without amazement, life becomes dull and routine and so it is with faith. The Church too needs to renew her amazement at being the dwelling place of the living God, the Bride of the Lord, a Mother who gives birth to her children. Otherwise, she risks turning into a beautiful museum of the past. A “Church museum”. Our Lady, instead, gives the Church the feel of a home, a home in which the God of newness dwells. Let us receive with amazement the mystery of the Mother of God, as the inhabitants of Ephesus did at the time of the Council. Like them, let us acclaim her “Holy Mother of God”. From her, let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon, to be embraced, to be taken by the hand.
Let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon. Especially in times of need, when we are entangled in life’s knots, we rightly lift our eyes to Our Lady, to Our Mother. Yet first, we should let ourselves be gazed upon by Our Lady. When she gazes upon us, she does not see sinners but children. It is said that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, the eyes of Mary, full of grace, reflect the beauty of God, they show us a reflection of heaven. Jesus Himself said that the eye is “the lamp of the body” (Mt 6:22) – the eyes of Our Lady are able to bring light to every dark corner, everywhere they rekindle hope. As she gazes upon us, she says: “Take heart, dear children, here I am, your Mother!”