December 8, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Mary invites us to come home to her son Jesus

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Mary, because she has entered intimately into the history of salvation, in a certain sense gathers up in her own person the great truths of the faith and awakens their resonance when she is the object of preaching and veneration; she summons the faithful to her Son, to his sacrifice and to the Father’s love”
(cf. “Lumen Gentium,” #63-65).

Today, Dec. 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patron saint of the United States of America. This is an important day for our Church and our country because it honors Mary’s absolutely unique role in human history.

Mary is the perfect expression of what we human beings were created to be. She is “perfect” not because she possesses extraordinary intelligence or superhuman powers. Mary’s perfection is the result of God’s grace, which from the moment of her Immaculate Conception until her Assumption (body and soul) into heaven at the end of her life kept her free from the effects of original sin and the curse of human sinfulness.

Mary is perfectly good. She is absolutely faithful to her word. She is supremely compassionate and holy. This does not make Mary less human (without worries or doubts, unable to experience pain or sorrow). It makes her more fully what all of us are called to be: daughters and sons of the living God and members of the one Body of Christ, the Church.

Many Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith say that one of the things they miss most is devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This shouldn’t be surprising. Veneration of Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, is a distinctive feature of our Catholic way of life. Without it, we feel something important is missing from our lives.

Mary was (and still is) the first Christian disciple—the first person to follow Jesus, her son, and to invite others to do the same. As St. Teresa of Calcutta frequently reminded us, we go to Jesus through Mary. She is the gateway, the sacred portal, through which we can enter into fullness of life as disciples of her Son.

Mary’s discipleship began when she freely chose to accept the absolutely unique responsibility in the history of salvation which was communicated to her by the angel Gabriel: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:30-33).

Mary’s response was immediate and from the heart: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). She had no way of knowing exactly what was being asked of her, but she trusted that God would provide her with the grace she needed to do his will.

Mary was (and still is) the first Christian evangelist. By her words and her example, she proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ. She invites us all to come home to her divine son and to discover in him our hearts’ desire. Through Mary, we discover our true identity as Catholics. As the bishops of the Second Vatican Council said so beautifully in the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” Mary “gathers up in her own person the great truths of the faith,” and “she summons the faithful to her Son” (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” #63-65).

If we want to know what it means to be a Catholic Christian, we only have to look to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the model for life in Christ. Her openness to God’s will (in spite of its mystery), her obedience, her patience, her willingness to stand with him during his passion and death, her experience of joy at Christ’s resurrection, and her active participation in the life of the Church after Pentecost all show Mary to be someone we should imitate—and venerate—in our daily lives as Christians.

Mary, our mother, invites all Catholics to come home to Jesus, her son and our brother. May we accept her invitation wholeheartedly, without reservation or fear, no matter how long it’s been since we practiced our faith or grew in our relationship to the Lord.

May we respond, with Mary, with an enthusiastic “Yes!” acknowledging that we truly are missionary disciples of the Lord. May his will be done according to his word! †

Local site Links: