On behalf of Msgr. LoPinto, Fr. Gribowich, and of course myself, I would like to express our best wishes as we close out the calendar year 2020 and pray for 2021. It is comforting to do this not only as Christians but as Catholics. In our tradition this is the “Octave of Christmas.” As the name suggests Octave means 8 and reflects the Latin way of counting. It means however a week and is a way of marking very special feasts. There were once many Octaves but now they have been reduced to two: Christmas and Easter. The Octave of Christmas has celebrated many things over the years. Some of us may remember when it was the feast of the circumcision of our Lord. But Pope St. Paul 6th realized that it should be dedicated to Mary. An octave is an echo of Jesus major interventions into history and Mary is the most perfect echo of Jesus’ incarnation. Of all the possibilities of recognizing Mary’s special connection to the Incarnation he chose “Mary, the Mother of God.” Let us look at why and another Gospel selection before returning to the Gospel chosen today and a more pertinent lesson.
The title Mary the Mother of God became popular in the 5th century to combat a heresy which held that Mary was only the mother of Jesus’s humanity. In this view the Word of God – second person of the blessed Trinity – entered the man Jesus at some point but was not present at his conception. This may seem like a technicality but the Bishops in union with the Pope understood that this compromised salvation. Jesus needed to be 100% human and 100% divine from his very conception for us to be truly redeemed and saved. Thus, Mary was given the title “Theotokos” in Greek meaning “God bearer,” thus mother of God in English. Unfortunately, this can cause two areas of confusion: one obscuring the humanity of Jesus and the other diminishing the continuing importance of the motherhood of Mary,
It is good for us today to recognize that Jesus God and Man was born at Christmas and that for us to be saved he must be both. It would be better to call today the feast of Mary, the mother of Jesus. A way to understand this may be to look at how Mary was a mother.
Yes of course she bore Jesus in her womb but there is more to motherhood than giving birth. Motherhood is a relationship and for many of us the most formative one. The importance and effects of this can best seen in the miracle at Cana.
Mary may seem a mere walk on here, but her role is critical not only for this miracle but for the entire Gospel of St. John.
Call to mind the story: Mary has been invited to a wedding in the small town of Cana. A wedding was the only time most people had to give a party; it was extremely important. On a very human level if the young couple ran out of wine, they would be remembered for that the rest of their lives. It would be a domestic tragedy. Yet here is more than the merely human going on here.
The first indication is how Jesus addresses Mary. When she tells him that “they have no wine”, he responds “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4)
This is, at very least, a disconcerting remark. First, referring to your mother as “Woman” is unheard of in ancient literature. The only other instance is also in John’s Gospel to Mary by Jesus under his cross. Second, “how does your concern affect me?” Could seem like a terribly selfish and mean-spirited comment. Yet we should take it at face value, he is truly asking why it is important. He has come to redeem and to reveal himself but when should he start, when is his hour?
Mary’s answer is to tell the servants to do whatever he asks them to do. This is not being coy; this is a straight answer and Jesus understands this as such. As we know he had them fill the cisterns of water and he changed them into enough wine to satisfy the thirst of the town for a year.
Mary is a mother here not because she could get a seemingly stubborn son to do what she wanted but because she had developed a trusting and open relationship with Jesus. She is here the spokesperson for the entire human race, all of us at every point in time. This is the time. This is the place, when she says we – humanity – are dry and parched, we need to be filled, Jesus understands and begins. Only the relationship with a mother would be intimate enough to do this,
There follows a line that may seem to be a through away: After this, he, and his mother, (his) brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days. (Jn 2:12)
After the beginning of the ministry, Jesus took his disciplines and note Mary is named first – to be with him. Jesus knows that we do not immediately understand what he does and why he does it so as important as the miracle is the time spent to understand it to make it a part of oneself.
We read in today’s Gospel: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Mary the mother of Jesus was called to cry out the need of the world. As brothers and sisters of Jesus we are called to maintain our families and communities. The calendar year of 2020 has most mercifully ended but the year of COVID-19 has not and has revealed that some of our relationships with family, friends, work and church are not as strong as we thought. Learn from Mary and spend some time with Jesus, reflect on him in your hearts, Mary’s acceptance of her role as disciple and mother brought salvation to the universe, what will our acceptance of being disciple and brother or sister bring?