Today’s homily is for The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, January 1, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here, and the mp3 can be heard by clicking here.
Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope you are still wishing friends and family a merry Christmas. As you know, the Christmas season lasts twelve days, so we’re only just over halfway through! Right in the midst of all this Christmas joy, while the rest of the country and the world celebrate New Years, we recognize that our new year has already begun! Our new year began on the first Sunday of Advent, November 28. So, this evening is not New Year’s Eve for us, but instead the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Today, we celebrate that God has a mother, and her name is Mary.
The Gospel tells us that the shepherds went in haste to find Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger. I think the neatest thing about today’s Gospel is these shepherds. God gave the shepherds the message that the newborn king would be born and that they were to find him. And they did! And they told Mary and Joseph all about the message they had been given. It probably started with, “I’m so glad I found you! You’re not even going to believe this!”
And the Gospel says that all were amazed at what the shepherds had shared with them. So God gives the message to the shepherds. The shepherds gave the message to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and they shared it with others who were amazed. And this story has been told over countless generations–the king is born. God has visited his people, born of a woman.
Not only did God give the shepherds a message, God also sent the angel, Gabriel, to give Mary the message nine months earlier. God also sent an angel to give Joseph a message to not be afraid to take Mary into his home. You know, the Gospel writer wasn’t there in any of those moments–not with the shepherds, with Mary, or with Joseph–or even there at the manger when they all got together. The gospel writer heard what others had said about that night, and as hard as it was to believe, shared it with others, until someone eventually wrote it down as we have it now.
Has anyone ever played that game “telephone” where a bunch of people make a long line and repeat a sentence whispering to the next person from one to the other, and by the time the sentence gets to the other end it’s an entirely different sentence? I’ve played that game too. You know some people say that’s why we can’t really trust the Bible, or even this story about Jesus and Mary. These skeptics, hard of heart, compare a game at a party where you have to remember some random sentence, to a message from God about the story of salvation! It’s a very poor comparison at best.
A better comparison might be when I tried out for Marine Corps special forces. We started at 4am, and at almost noon, and with the finish line just 10 feet in front of me, I collapsed to the ground. I was delirious, with a 108.6 degree temperature, was packed in ice, and took six I.V.s. I almost died of a heat stroke, and after being rushed from Camp Hansen to the Naval hospital by ambulance, I regained consciousness and the only thing I could think about was if I had made it. Right then a nurse walked in and said, your gunny just called. He said you made it. Those were her exact words. Your gunny just called, he said you made it. I won’t ever forget those words or that moment for as long as I live.
That’s the Bible. That’s the Gospel. That’s the word of God that was remembered and passed on from one generation to another. Not a game–but the very word of God that transforms lives. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. We should praise God too for all that we have seen and heard. The Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to God. Amen. Alleluia!