Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Meekness and Docility of Mary: A Homily for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

The Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
Solemnity of Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Homily
January 1, 2015
The Meekness and Docility of Mary

The year of our Lord 2014 has passed away before our eyes, never to be seen again. All 12 months of it…all 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,765 hours, 525,949 minutes, and 31,556,926 seconds. A year of opportunities and a year of let downs…a year of immense joy, and a year of tragedy. How did you do this past year? Would you consider it a “success” or a “failure”? And what are the criteria you’ll use to make this judgment? The amount of money you made? The vacations you took and the memories you formed? The promotion you got or the retirement package you were offered? The grades on your report card or the driver’s license you got? The relationship you’ve been in? Your health? All of these things can certainly contribute to a better or a worse year…and we’ll all, no doubt, resolve to fix whatever we fouled up in 2014 so that 2015 can be the best yet. I would propose, however, that there is only a single criterion that unequivocally determines whether the year 2014 can go down in our history books as a success or a failure. Without it, every other good thing becomes meaningless, and with it, every bad thing becomes meaningful. Ask yourself this question and answer it with brutal honesty: have you grown closer to Christ?

The Mystery of Christmas reveals to us, by means of the face of a small child, that God is not an abstract idea or a distant divine mover…He is as personal as He is transcendent. The Mighty God, the Creator of the stars of night, the source and origin of all that has been, is, and will be, is the Babe of Bethlehem. Born into our midst, God took on flesh, making it abundantly clear to all of us that He wishes to be loved by us, that He wishes to be in relationship with us, that He wants us to draw closer to Him. This love, this relationship, this closeness with Him doesn’t simply give meaning to our mundane lives, not does it serve to fix what’s going wrong in our lives…it is our salvation, the means by which Christ raises us up from our earthly existence and makes us true sons and daughters of God. This gift of salvation is freely offered to all, but we must choose, every second of every day, to accept it, to cooperate with it, and to allow it transform us. How have you done with this during the past year? If you’re like me, there have been many ups and downs. Some days I want nothing more than to foster and build my relationship with Christ and to glory in His gift of salvation…other days, I want nothing more than to serve myself and my own wants, desires, and ambitions. There’s only room for one God in my life…and if I’m serving myself, or something or someone else, I cannot simultaneously grow closer to Christ. We all have the choice…who did I choose to love the most this past year? If the answer is not Christ, then we need to take a step back and make some changes. And even if the answer is Christ, we can and must learn to love Him more completely and fully.

As we barrel into the New Year, the Church provides us with today’s solemnity to help give us some perspective into this dynamic. On the first day of the year, we are given the opportunity to consider and reflect upon the example of the pure, whole, and complete love that the Blessed Virgin Mary has for Her Divine Son. No priest or pope, no disciple or apostle, no saint or angel loved Christ as perfectly as the maiden of Nazareth. Chosen by God the Father to be the vessel by which God the Son would take on Flesh, this beautiful, but lowly creature became the Mother of God…and in her motherly tenderness and care, she shows us what it means to forsake all else to grow closer to Christ. If we ourselves wish to endeavor to attain greater unity with Christ in the coming year, to give Him ourselves more completely and fully, it would be foolish, reckless, and useless to attempt to do so without turning to Mary.

As we know from the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was indeed uniquely blessed and graced by God, Who preserved her from original sin in order that she might more beautifully and freely cooperate with His plan for salvation…but her ongoing example of holiness and virtue is certainly and necessarily something we can imitate. In our Gospel today, two particular virtues stand out…her meekness and her docility. We will get nowhere in our relationship with Christ in the coming year if we do not become as meek and docile as the Blessed Virgin…these virtues are the preliminary and prerequisite virtues for growing in holiness.

Meekness, as a matter of definition, is a virtue that moderates anger. Those who are meek do not become inordinately angry when harm is done to them or when situations become stressful or unbearable. Meekness, then, in a true sense, instills within the soul a deep tranquility. Mary’s entire life presented opportunities for her to become overwhelmed and angry…from the Angel’s message, to the stress of the Christmas crib, to the death of Christ on the cross. But Mary was meek and lowly…she approached each and every situation with a tranquility of spirit that allowed her to accept and to trust in the power of Divine providence. How often do we let inordinate anger, over big things or little things, actually prevent us from turning to God? A loved one with cancer, the loss of a job, or getting cut off in traffic...these, and so many other situations, can rouse up a mighty anger in us, all of which comes from our lack of control and a perceived injustice. Meekness is about giving up control and daring to trust that Christ alone, in ways we may not understand, can and will make all things right and new. A relationship with Christ that is capable of growing must begin with this kind of meekness. No one wanted Christ off of the Cross more than Mary, but in her meekness she trusted in His plan and gave in to His will. We must learn to the do the same if we are to grow closer to Him.

Docility, as a matter of definition, is a virtue that enables us to be taught. Docility is the great conqueror of the all-American vice of self-sufficiency. “It’s my way or the highway!” or “I don’t care what anyone else says” attitude presents us with the false belief that we, in ourselves, are capable of figuring it all out. Not only is thus blatantly untrue when it comes to the things of this earth, it is even more untrue when it comes to the things of heaven, to eternal truths. Christ comes to us as our teacher, He gives us His Bride the Church as our teacher, in order to show us the truth and to open our finite minds to things that are infinite. Mary herself knew that the mysteries taking place in her life were far beyond her own human understanding…but her docility of spirit enabled her to open herself up to God and to present herself as His pupil. Docility leads to deep meditation and prayer…as Mary herself did, pondering these mysteries in her heart. We cannot expect to grow closer to Christ if we are unwilling to actually learn from Him.

A true relationship with Christ requires us in give in…and the meekness and the docility of the Blessed Virgin shows us what this entails. Let’s resolve in this coming year, through her holy intercession, to advance in these virtues, so that we can grow closer to her Son.

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