Solemnity of the Mother of God

December 31, 2022

My dear friends in Jesus Christ, Today is the octave day of Christmas. It is exactly one week since we celebrated the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ, and it is also the first day of the new year. The celebration of the birth of our saviour continues into a new year. It is not over. Christ comes to us as Emmanuel – God with us, and that is true for all time. God is with us, and came to us as a human person, like us, to save us and give us life to the full. Mary’s part in this is celebrated today as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.

Jesus’s earthly life began and ended with Mary. He was conceived in her

womb, and she was present at his death on the cross. But her

involvement didn’t end there; she was with the disciples in the Upper

Room when the Holy Spirit descended on them, in other words her fidelity

to Jesus and his Church is constant. Mary stays with us as Jesus’s mother

and therefore our mother.

One of the ancient saints of the church, Saint Athanasius wrote, “This was

no mere fiction, as some have thought. Far from it! Our Saviour really did

become man, and this brought about the salvation of the whole man. Our

salvation is no illusion, nor is it salvation of the body only; the salvation of

the whole person, body and soul, was really brought about in the Word

himself. What was born of Mary, was by nature human, the Lord’s body

was a real one – real because Mary was our sister, since we are all

descended from Adam”.

Because of her closeness to us Mary has been a companion to many

Christian disciples throughout their lives, and she will be a companion to

us as we begin 2023. We are under no illusion that the coming months are

going to be easy for us. Soaring energy prices and the rising cost of living

has brought many people to the edge of despair, unable to make ends

meet. Our food banks are under greater pressure than ever before, and

people are beginning to use the ‘warm and cosy hubs’ provided by

churches and local authorities. Mary is no stranger to these hardships as

we learnt from the Christmas story and the account of the flight into Egypt

with her baby son and Joseph. That is why we have a unique friend in

Mary the Mother of God who is our mother too.

When Mary was given the title Mother of God it wasn’t simply to give

recognition for her part in our salvation. This doctrine is also about us. It

tells us who we are. It gives us our identity as children of God. In our times

the human person is so often devalued and degraded. People become

commodities, like goods that are bought and traded. We see this with the

exploitation of refugees and migrants. Nearer home, we buy and wear

cheap clothes made by people who earn a pittance for their labour in

sweatshops in developing countries. The current war in the Ukraine puts

a low value on human life as many are slaughtered. Television brings into

our homes the horrors of war and exploitation, and the resultant loss and

degradation of human life. We believe as Catholic Christians that people

matter, that all people matter, and that the whole person matters, body

and soul. That’s a powerful message we give to the world.

In declaring Mary as the Mother of God we are asserting that we are

brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, Son of Mary and Son of God. We are

therefore sisters and brothers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and that our

dignity is given us by being created in love by our Father in heaven. If Jesus

is our brother, then Mary is our mother too. This means that every person

is very special to God – he has given them a special dignity as his child, yet

we don’t always see our fellow human beings in that way. Nor do we treat

others with the dignity that they deserve. To treat others with more

respect could be our first resolution for the new year. Just think of the

difference that that would make to your personal lives and the lives of

others. We should also try to be more like Mary, woman of faith.

Mary was probably from the poorest section of Jewish society in her day.

They were called the ‘Poor of the Lord’. Living in poverty with no place in

society teaches you to be dependent on others and reliant on God. Mary

who was from that group who wanted nothing for themselves yet relied

on God for everything was chosen to fulfil God’s promise made to his

people. Can we realise how little we can achieve on our own and develop

a strong sense of dependence on each other? Can we be more open to

God’s grace? The year ahead is a time of endless possibilities. Just think

how different it would be if we could be just a little like Mary the Mother

of God?

May the new year ahead be a time of unity, peace and health, and may

the Lord bless you and your families.

Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP

Archbishop of Liverpool