Homily for the Feast of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Theme: The role of Virgin Mary in the plan of salvation.
By: Rev Fr Utazi Prince Marie Benignus Zereuwa
Homily: Micah 5: 1-4a or Romans 8: 28-30; Psalm 13: 6ab, 6c; Matthew 1: 1-16, 18-23
I pray for you: May you continue to respond to God’s will by loving those whom God has entrusted to your care. AMEN
Today we celebrate the birth of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. We recall her birth to her parents, Saints Ann and Joachim (Hannah and Yoachim). We focus on her role in the plan of salvation. She responded to God’s announcement that she would be the mother of the Savior. She then lovingly cared for her Son, the Son of God. We are called to say our “Yes” to God and thus we lovingly care for those who are entrusted to our care. Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Birth of Mary.
Although there is no scriptural account of her birth, the church has celebrated her birth since at least the sixth century. An apocryphal account of her birth is preserved in the non-canonical ProtoGospel of James. The tradition that has circulated since the first centuries of Christianity speaks of Mary’s parents (Ann and Joachim) being old and having no children. They prayed to God and were told that they will have a child who will be important in the history of salvation. The Eastern churches celebrate the feast of the Birth of Mary in September because that was the beginning of their calendar year at the time. The modern celebration of the Immaculate Conception is calculated from this date back nine months to December 8.
Our scripture passages today focus on the coming of the Messiah. That is very appropriate since it is Christ Jesus who is the key figure in salvation history. The position of Mary as His mother is related, in a subordinate way, as is fitting to her subordinate place of honor to her Son, Jesus. The passage from Micah is the prophetic promise that a male descendant of David would be born of a woman and the male descendant would be the shepherd of God’s flock of people. Micah, a prophet of old, forecasted that one from the line of King David would be born. This “Son,” or descendant, of David would continue God’s plan for the salvation of God’s people. The One born of the woman (showing His earthly origins) would come to shepherd (take care of and protect) the flock of God. The birth would take place in Bethlehem, the city of King David’s birth. Thus the Promised One would be the care-taker and savior of God’s holy people.
The alternative First Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans rightfully places Jesus as the First Born (most important human) of all His sisters and brothers (fellow human beings who call upon God as Father). Paul sees good coming to all who love God. Because God can see into the future, God can see how different individuals will accept the Good News of salvation and therefore God has foreknowledge of what people will do. That does not mean that God takes away free will from individuals, but God knows what choices people will make even before they are born. God can therefore bless and justify them in advance. Thus it is God’s prerogative to grant certain blessings ahead of time to Mary because of her future total acceptance of God’s plan of salvation. It is only appropriate that God would make the human vessel of the Divine Son’s human nature to be pure and spotless and honorable from the first moment of her life.
The psalm echoes Mary’s joyful submission to the will of God and God’s allowing her to be the mother of the Savior.
The Gospel includes both the genealogy of Jesus and also the account of His birth according to Matthew. The Gospel (in its longer form) gives us the human ancestry of Jesus from Abraham down to Joseph, His adoptive father. The end of (or the shorter) Gospel for today relates how Jesus’ birth came about. It presents Mary as the human woman whom God has chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit so that her Child has a human nature from her and a Divine Nature from God. This child is to be called Yeshua (Jesus) which means “God saves.”
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Mary is to be honored (not worshiped or adored) for her role in helping to bring forth the Savior of the world. Her consent to God’s plan enabled the plan of salvation to be implemented as the Son of God is incarnated (“fleshified”). Mary’s role is an important one, but is always subordinate to the role of Jesus, the God-man Savior. Therefore, Mary is a good role model for all of us in her obedience to God’s will. She also exemplifies what it means to be a servant of God. Her plans always included doing whatever God wanted her to do. Mary, in St. Paul’s words, is the best example of what it means “to be conformed into the image of God’s Son” even though she is Jesus’ mother. Another title used frequently in modern times is Mary is “the first and best disciple of Jesus.” After she taught her Son and raised Him, she learned from the Teacher and lived as disciple (disciplined learner) of Him. She played (and still plays) an integral part in the plan of salvation. Let us emulate Mother Mary.
*MEDITATION* How do I see Mary’s role in the plan of salvation? What can I learn from Mary and her submission to the will of God? What can I do to bring the message and ministry of Jesus into the lives of people today?
*PRAYER* Lord God, help us to emulate the virtues of Mother Mary, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
*O DIVINE WORD WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATION*
© Rev Fr Utazi Prince Marie Benignus Zereuwa