Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

01 January 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan NewsMessages and Homilies

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God


[Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21]

Over the last few days, I have had occasion to watch a hockey game of the World Junior Championship. What caught my attention at the outset were some introductory remarks by the commentators. They were discussing a particular challenge the young players would face while on the ice, namely, the need not to get distracted by the tumultuous noise of the crowds. Naturally, they have to pay attention to the voice of the coach, but cries from the vast number of attendees could drown it out, not to mention give directions contrary to those issued from the bench. The players would have to be focused and disciplined, they said, in order to listen to the coach and not the crowds.

We who are disciples of the Lord Jesus face the same challenge. In faith, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the only “coach”, the only true leader, upon whom we, and all of humanity, can rely with full confidence to “call the shots” of our lives. Yet, daily we face crowds of enormous volume that make very difficult to hear instructions coming from the mouth of the Lord, and which, moreover, trace out plays that differ radically from the call of the Gospel.

Throughout the Christmas season, the texts from Sacred Scripture remind us that God our heavenly Father has given us Jesus to be the coach for His people. As we hear from St. Paul today, Jesus is the Son of God sent from heaven and born of a woman, whom we know as the Virgin Mary. This means that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. Only Jesus, therefore, can reveal to us the mystery of God and that of ourselves. He alone makes known our human destiny to eternal life and how to reach it. There is no one else given to us by God for this saving purpose. Only his voice matters.

The crowds that seek to drown out and contradict it are many and loud. And not only now. From the beginning, Christians have had to deal with many voices seeking to distract from the truth of Jesus Christ. In fact, what we proclaim today about Mary arose from the Church’s response to “crowds” in the early centuries of the Church who clamoured to deny the divinity of Jesus. Refusing to heed that noise and remaining attentive to the voice of the Gospel, the Church affirmed dogmatically that Jesus, born of Mary, is the Eternal Son of the Heavenly Father, and is, therefore, truly God. For this reason, the Church also teaches we can rightly and justly speak of Mary as the Mother of God, for which title we honour her in this mass.

In our own day, multiple are the “noisy crowds” who continue the attempts to distract humanity from the mystery of Jesus and the truth he speaks. We can think, for example, of what comes at us via the ear-splitting roar of media, the shrill clamour of ideologies, or the voluble blare of commercial advertising. Perhaps the loudest crowd of all is heard within, formed by self-centered desires and thoughts swirling raucously in our hearts and minds. These all give thunderous voice to a game plan entirely at odds with the saving design of God, announced in Jesus.

How are we to deal with all this? I do not know how the young hockey players manage to tune out the crowds and stay focused on the coach, but we all know where to turn to learn how to listen attentively to the Word of God and not to loud, competing voices. Today, the Church points us all to Mary, who is both Mother of God and perfect disciple, the one who at all times remained perfectly and calmly centered upon everything pertaining to her son.

Saint Matthew tells us Mary listened to what the shepherds were saying about her newborn baby, and then “treasured” all the words “and pondered them in her heart” as she adored the child. This is the example Mary places before us to emulate. To be a disciple today, it is more urgent than ever to make time to do as Mary did, that is, to treasure and ponder the Word of God, incarnate and revealed in Jesus Christ. This Word is immeasurably precious, teeming with ever-new delights. The more we ponder it, the more will arise within us an abiding peace, hope, and joy. The more, too, the truth and beauty of God’s Word take hold in our hearts, the more we shall see and want to ignore the falsehood and ugliness of the cacophony that seeks to drown it out.

Might I suggest, then, on this day typically associated with resolutions, that we collectively resolve to be a people dedicated to treasuring and pondering the Word of God, to listening to the coach and not the crowds. Since we cannot be faithful to this resolution without divine assistance, let us now, in this Eucharistic celebration, seek God’s blessing, as the Lord through Moses once commanded His people to do. May God grant us the grace we need to treasure, ponder, and rejoice in His Holy Word, made flesh in Jesus Christ.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Joseph Basilica

January 1st, 2024