By Fr. Chris Ballard
Today is New Year’s Day as well as the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Perhaps you were sitting in Mass this morning wondering why Mother Church insists on torturing us by making us get up early in the morning after New Year’s Eve. But what better of a way to start the New Year than in the House of God!
This feast is very important in the life of the Church. From the outside looking in, it seems curious to call Mary the Mother of God. I mean, God is eternal, everlasting, all-powerful. How could he have a mother? The Fathers of the Church debated this very question in 431 at the Council of Ephesus. Ultimately, they came to decide that Mary can indeed be called “Mother of God.” In the end, this doctrine protects Jesus. It reminds us that Jesus is both God and man. Mary did not just give birth to a man, but to God incarnate, the Word made flesh. When we call Mary the Mother of God, we do great honor to Jesus as well.
Did you happen to catch the opening collect at the Mass? This is what it says:
who through the fruitful
virginity of Blessed Mary
bestowed on the human race
the grace of eternal salvation,
grant, we pray,
that we may experience the
intercession of her,
through whom we were found worthy
to receive the author of life,
our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
“Fruitful virginity?” That’s curious. Impossible even. Yet, that is the mystery we celebrate especially during the Christmas season. Isaiah says, “the virgin shall bear a son…” The Blessed Mother’s virginity was fruitful. It brought forth life into this world. That was possible because she said “yes” to God. Priests and religious are called to be celibate. That celibacy is also meant to be fruitful, like the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our celibacy as priests and religious is meant to bring forth life into this world, and it is only possible when we say “yes” to God and allow his grace to work in us and through us. When we baptize, we bring forth new life into this world. When we minister to those in need, we bring forth new life into this world. When we preach the Gospel, we bring forth new life into this world. When we celebrate Mass and make Jesus present in the Eucharist, we bring forth new life into this world. Our fruitfulness will not be physical, but spiritual. The life we bring forth will be the very life of God in a world that needs it so badly.
Celibacy is a gift and a challenge. It takes prayer, reflection and discernment to begin to understand what it means and how to live it. May we learn from the beautiful example of our Blessed Mother and give our entire selves to God, saying “yes” and bringing forth new life into the world as a result.