December 7, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Staying close to our mother Mary through her son Jesus

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“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 God 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).

Traditionally, October and May are considered the two months of the year that are especially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, the Church gives us two wonderful feasts in December to celebrate Mary’s role in the history of our salvation.

Tomorrow, on Dec. 8, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a mystery of God’s grace that allowed Mary to enter our world without the burden of sin. Next Wednesday, on Dec. 12, we will rejoice in the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the sign of our Blessed Mother’s oneness with all the peoples of the Americas (and our unity with each other).

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception calls attention to the way that Mary, who was born without original sin, is different from us.

But as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once observed, “This privilege given to Mary, which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary’s purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good.” Mary’s difference does not separate her from us; her holiness makes her more open and accessible to all of us, her children.

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe also emphasizes Mary’s closeness to us. In 1531, a “Lady from Heaven” appeared to St. Juan Diego, a humble Native American at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City. She wore native dress, and she let it be known to him, and to all of us, that she is one-with-us. “Do not be afraid,” the beautiful Lady said to Juan Diego. “Am I not here, your Mother?” To emphasize her oneness with the people of that region, Our Lady not only appeared in native dress, she spoke the language of the common people.

As we begin a new Church year, and prepare for Christmas, we are invited to stay close to Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother. Mary points the way to her son. She reminds us of the miracles Jesus works in our daily lives, and she invites us to respond with open hearts. “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), Mary responded when she was told that she was to bear a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her counsel to us is always to do as she did, submitting to God’s will for us.

Mary’s presence during the crucifixion of her son is one of the saddest moments in all of biblical literature. She follows him on the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa, unable to do anything to assist or comfort him. Then she stands before the cross—supported by John, the disciple whom Jesus loved—and watches and waits.

“Woman, behold your son,” Jesus says. And to the disciple, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:26-27). From that moment, Mary became our mother, the one who intercedes for us before the throne of God. She is the one who shares with us her confident hope in the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

As she said to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary says to us now, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). She gives profound personal witness to the liberating power of saying “yes” to God’s will. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38), she says to the angel Gabriel (and to us).

We might say that by his death on the cross our Lord gave us two gifts. First and foremost, he gave us the gift of everlasting life. He sacrificed himself for us—dying so that we might live with him forever.

And then, in yet another sign of God’s abundant generosity, Jesus gave us his mother. She who gave human life to him by the grace of God now helps us say “yes” to divine life and follow her son on the way to happiness and peace.

Let’s use this Advent season of joyful expectation to grow closer to Mary, and through her to Jesus her son. Let’s follow her example and open our hearts to God’s holy Word so that we can always say “yes” and always do God’s will. †

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