Homily preached by Fr David Smith SSC, Parish Priest of Hamilton, Newcastle at the Cell on Saturday 7th July 2012:
“Henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” Lk 1:48
Why, we may ask ourselves, should that be? Seven being a good biblical number, I offer seven things to meditate upon to help us with the matter:
Firstly, there is the obvious. Mary was to be the Mother of God incarnate. As the scriptures make abundantly clear, and as the creeds inform us (especially the Athanasian) Our Lord’s manly, human substance was from her. Without that his manhood would not be real, and without that, there would be no salvation. We would be entirely without hope. So we call her blessed.
Secondly, she was highly favoured of God. God himself had seen fit to pour an abundance of his grace upon her and thus his great blessing. To be blessed by God is something that each and every faithful man and woman would surely crave. Who would not want to be thought so? She was indeed highly favoured. So we call her blessed.
Thirdly, she had been called to be a key player in the great plan of salvation history. From before ever the time of our first parents disobedience in the garden, that plan had been set in train. The old carol speaks of the maid retrieving the curse. She could have said no to the whole business. We all have the capacity to choose or refuse to do God’s will for us. She did not. So we call her blessed.
Fourthly, She was the woman of faith “par excellence”. To willingly submit to the will of God, knowing what that would mean, took faith. There would be the immediate shocked response of St Joseph. There would be the gossip of the neighbourhood. Have you heard about Joachim and Anna’s daughter? Still her faith would see her through that. So we call her blessed.
Fifthly, not only would she impart his fleshly, human substance to our Lord, but she would give him the love that only a genuine mother would give, could give, longed to give. Our Lord was not an abandoned child. No, he had the love of his dear mother. Love we would all do well to emulate. So we call her blessed.
Sixthly, in all this she was humble. She had that right appreciation of herself which only the truly humble born of God are to possess. With humility came purity of heart. Not just moral purity, but the unalloyed desire to serve God. The God of Israel. The God of all men and women. So we call her blessed.
Seventhly, She would face the exceptional trial that would come as the sword pierced her own soul, the sword spoken of by Simeon. Who was at the foot of the cross? Many of the apostles had fled. Our Lord’s enemies gathered in number. The indifferent would have their say. Truly the sword pierced her soul. Yet she did not flee. So we call her blessed.
Not just us, but every generation. Those before us, and all to follow. May it be that we live in such way that we too may have some share in her blessedness.
Saturday 2nd June 2012, Fr Chris Yates SSC on the Visitation of the BVM to Elizabeth:
It the name of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Among us is the Holy One of Israel. He is amongst us and his name is Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, God Incarnate. That is what we gather to proclaim, to celebrate and to affirm at every Mass, at every Office, indeed in every breath as we journey by the light of faith every day of our lives. We have the benefit of having received this faith through the Apostolic action of the Church, and we too are bound by this tradition to ensure that we hand it on to another generation of believers in our own time.
The gospel today tells us of a very early encounter, a very insightful moment when two women meet and share the great Divine Mystery that God had made himself present in the world as a vulnerable human baby. The vessel of this salvific will of God is of course the Blessed Virgin Mary whom we offer this votive Mass for today and celebrate in this cell as Our Lady of Walsingham. The Church proclaims her proudly as the Theotokos, the Mother of God, echoing the words of St Elizabeth in this precious moment captured in Luke’s gospel. I want to focus on the question of St Elizabeth: And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Our Lady is the very icon of the Church and we have much to learn from her. Mary does not sit at home with the precious gift in her womb keeping it to herself. She does not take the easy path and keep this knowledge secret to make herself more important. No, she takes Christ to her community, to her kinswoman Elizabeth, to the people of Israel, to Galilee, to Jerusalem and ultimately to the whole world.
What does Our Lady do to spread this message of salvation? Does she announce how blessed she is to all? Does she remind everyone that God prepared her especially for a great mission? No! She simply bears Jesus and allows God Incarnate to reveal Himself. Such is the awesome power of God present in the Christ that even from the womb of Mary Jesus, the Word of God that cannot yet speak, sends the Spirit to fill Elizabeth, and what does she announce?
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Our icon of the Church doesn’t keep this praise for herself, as in the rest if her life, Mary knows the One for whom this praise, indeed all praise, is due. Filled too with the Holy Spirit Mary cries out the great canticle the Magnificat. We know it well, the song of eternal justice which resounds as loudly today as it did two thousand years ago; that the kingdom of God is breaking in and breaking out now.
How does it happen to us that the Mother of our Lord should come to us? Well, it is who she is, prepared by God Himself to bring the good news into the world. As we follow our icon she leads us to follow her example in taking the news of the kingdom of God to all around us, and to enable the Holy Spirit to speak into the lives of His children. We cannot stay in our rooms, in comfort, and keep this to ourselves, we must be bold and step out in faith to be the body of Christ on earth. Our parish communities are not exclusive social clubs that guard our own interests; they are resource centers for the continuing mission of God.
Gathered here around the altar we will once more proclaim the incarnation, the Passion and the resurrection, and once more witness to the presence of Christ as he comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed indeed is our Mother Mary who bears Christ, shows us Christ and leads us to Christ so that with her and all the Saints we can proclaim at this and every Mass “amongst us is the Holy One of Israel.” Amen.