Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mary, Mother of Peace

Today we honor Mary, the Holy Mother of God.   She made it all possible.  What does “it” refer to?  Christmas.  Our salvation.  Our union with God.  It all happened through her.
Now the blessing from the Book of Numbers 6:22-27 is fully realized.  God’s face shines forth  in the flesh.  God’s face shines upon us through the face of a baby.  Through Mary, God has given us peace, for Jesus has reconciled us with God after humanity’s rebellion and has made it possible for us to live at peace with one another.

Ultimately peace, like faith, is a gift from God.  Human efforts alone won’t bring it about.  Peace comes from the awareness that we are truly children of God. 
Since the Son of God united His divine nature to our human nature, He has made us all children of God. Moreover, since we are made in the image and likeness of God, you could say that we are all “spittin’ images” of God our Father. We are God’s children and the human family is one.

But even more, for Christians, according St. Paul in Galatians 4:4-7, there is a deeper reality to our identity as God’s children.  We are “adopted,” not in the way humans adopt children. Parents can give many things and much love to their adopted children but they cannot share with them their genetic make-up, their blood, their DNA.  When God adopts children through the sacrament of baptism a real transformation occurs. It is as though God changes our deepest interior, making us His children in reality.
This is the source of peace.

Since the 1960’s, the first day of the calendar year is the World Day of Peace.  Every pope has written a special message for this day and Pope Francis is no exception.  His is entitled “Fraternity: The Foundation and Pathway to Peace.” 
Referring to Matthew 23:8-9, he writes: “The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman.”  And, since Jesus shed his Precious Blood in order to save everyone, each person is precious to God.  Now we must see others as precious. As Pope Francis says, “there are no ‘disposable lives.’” 

Since God is Father of all, we are all brothers and sisters. This includes our enemies.  Addressing those who are in conflict with one another, Pope Francis writes: “in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”
Pope Francis concluded his message with a prayer to Mary: “May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, help us to understand and live every day the fraternity that springs up from the heart of her Son, so as to bring peace to each person on this our beloved earth.”

Mary is the Mother of Jesus who is our peace. She shows us that peace is born and nurtured in the heart.  Mary first received the Word of God into her pure and Immaculate Heart and then she conceived Him in her womb.  In her Heart there were no obstacles to God’s will. There was no anxiety or worries, no resentments or anger, no jealousy or competition. Her Heart was totally open to Jesus who is our peace.

This is the scene we have in Luke 2:16-21 where Mary gazes upon the face of the Son of God and her Son, and treasures in her Heart all her moments with Him. 

With Mary as our Mother, we too focus our gaze on Jesus and treasure in our hearts our moments of encounter with Him. We open our hearts to Him and let His peace fill them. If we do this, then the peace that Christ alone can give will overflow into our families, our communities, the world. 
As the Russian Orthodox saint, Seraphim of Sarov, who has been called another St. Francis of Assisi, once said: “Maintain a spirit of peace and you will save a thousand souls.” 

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