Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2018

January 1, 2018

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January 1, 2018

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

JoAnn Melina

JoAnn Melina

Lopez

Lopez

On this day, the Octave of Christmas, we continue to consider the mystery of the incarnation, while we celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. This title for Mary is very ancient, and declares Mary to be Theotokos, God-bearer. Celebrating Mary as the Mother of God points to a reality and a reminder about Jesus, her son -- that as we remember the full humanity of Christ in this season, we also remember that Jesus is God, born into our reality, revealing to us the Face of God.

What a mystery, that the Face of God should reveal itself in a child, born into poverty, under colonial rule, to parents far away from home, whose reputations were suspect in their community. That the Face of God would shine upon us from this place, should give us pause. That the Human Face of God would first shine on people like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, people whom we do not expect, people the world so quickly rejects and overlooks, should make us wonder.  Who is our God? And who does God invite us to be?

Ours is a God who shines with light and love in the very places in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, and in our world which are wounded, which suffer, and which people hide from in darkness, fear, or shame. God, who loves us, chooses to be gracious, kind and offer peace to the very places and persons in our world (and in ourselves) that we tend to see as unworthy or disposable.

This is an audacious belief at the heart of our faith -- that God desires to relate to us precisely in the places we deem unworthy.

This is the outrageous hope that we share with the shepherds who race to Bethlehem to meet the child they have been promised, and who go forth proclaiming what they have heard and seen. It is the strong belief shared by Mary, who continues to commit her life to the unfolding invitation of God -- by reflecting in her heart on all that she encounters, and acting according to her faith.

To share the faith of Mary and the shepherds is to be prophetic. It is to say: I have hope, and I believe in God's desire and ability to shine God’s face in every place. Even in this place of oppression, even in this place of death, even in this place of brokenness and sin. Even in me, who is not perfect, who often forgets that I am made from love and am called to live in a loving way. I believe that God wants to reveal God’s self to me in my life and in this world, and offer us all peace.

As I reflect on the face of God, I hear the Spirit say “I am here. I love every part of who you are. Yes you. Just you, just as you are. You are my child, an apostle of my love." Encountering the smiling Face of God in my own life offers me healing for the parts of myself I wish to hide from or hide away. It animates me to believe I am lovable, and to proclaim the audacious belief that God loves all. It expands my circle of love and inclusion. It invites me to seek the Face of God in others, and to race with love towards the places I know God desires to be.

I can name the places I have been privileged to encounter God’s face. Around a hospital bed, in my office, in the eyes of someone who has suffered, in the Chapel, over coffee, on retreat, at countless tables. All of these encounters required risk. I had to leave my comfort zone, say yes to hard conversations, be present when I felt helpless, and look deeply at myself and others with eyes of compassion and an open heart. Each encounter also requires a commitment as I move forward. A commitment to place the vulnerable at the center of my decision making. To be a voice of kindness in every place I am. To sit with the grieving. To stand up against injustice even if it means risking my comfort or my reputation. To live as a witness to God’s love, grace, kindness, and peace throughout my life. Like the shepherds and Mary, my life can no longer be the same after an encounter with the blessing of God’s Face.

Each of us, in this Christmas season, are called to concretely commit to how our lives will be changed by our encounter with God. The Face of God is not passive. Revealed in the person of Jesus, the blessing took concrete action. It is a face that beams with gracious invitation, animates us with kindness, and empowers us to peace. Not a passive, private peace, but a peace that is rooted in restoring right relationship. A peace full of love and invitation, a peace which brims forth from us individually and spills out into our relationships, our communities, our world, allowing God’s blessing of peace to be present to all. Wherever we have encountered the Face of God, it should compel us to commit to proclaiming what we have heard and seen.

As children of God, called and empowered to be the Body of Christ, we are called also to be the Face of God. Let us remember where God desires to reveal God’s self, and ask how we can individually, as communities, and as a Church, be committed to the places where God wants to shine God’s face through us.

Mary, whom we celebrate today as Mother of God, offers us a way of proceeding. Mary risked greatly in her willingness to encounter the Face of God. To believe in the angel’s promise was to risk her reputation, and her future, on the invitation to share in God’s mission of love. Mary committed her life to deeply encountering God in her child, and she shared this encounter with others. She spent much of her life intimately studying the Face of God in Jesus, and came to know the many ways Jesus revealed God’s face as gracious, kind, and offering peace. As Christians, we are invited to cultivate the same intimacy with Jesus as Mary had. May we, like Mary, be willing to risk encountering God’s Face, may we reflect deeply in our hearts on the ways God has been revealed to us, and may we be willing to make a concrete commitment to how our encounter with the Face of God will impact our lives.

First Reading

Nm 6:22-27

PSALM

Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Second Reading

Gal 4:4-7

GOSPEL

Lk 2:16-21
Read texts at usccb.org

JoAnn Melina Lopez

JoAnn Melina Lopez

JoAnn Melina Lopez, M.Div. has been immersed in Catholic formation, education, and action for fifteen years. After completing her undergraduate degree at Saint Joseph’s University, she served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Houston, working with asylum seekers and refugees. She received her Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and spent seven years as Campus Minister for Liturgy at Seattle University. JoAnn currently serves as Director of Faith Formation at St. Basil's Catholic Parish in Toronto, and is pursuing a diploma focused on social justice and community empowerment.

JoAnn grew up in India and Singapore, where she learned the importance of hospitality, inclusion, sharing meals, and how to live in a multifaith and multicultural world. JoAnn was pleasantly surprised to find a vocation where her talents of storytelling, finding the perfect gif for any situation, and curating playlists that speak to the heart are put to good use. Having participated in Catholic liturgy on four continents, she marvels at unity in diversity in the Church and is passionate about ritual, prayer, the global Church, and social justice.  

As an Ignatian-inspired minister, she is committed to cultivating communities of hope and imagination where everyone feels welcomed, loved, and empowered.  JoAnn is grateful for the courageous faith of prophetic voices in every generation, and strives to live now for a Church and world that more closely reflects God’s dreams for us.

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