Mary, Our Mother

On this Eighth Day of Christmas, we mark the beginning of a New Year. It was on this day, scripture reminds us that the infant born to Mary was named: “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (NAB, LK 2:21) Although the name “Jesus” was quite common just over 2000 years ago, Joseph and Mary gave him this name in accordance with the instructions from the Angel Gabriel. His name means “God saves” in his native language, as it is a combination of Ya, which is short for Yahweh, and hoshea, which means “salvation.” The Letter to the Galatians reminds us, “Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” (GAL 4:4-7)

Salvation came to us through the birth of a child, and his mother Mary, through her “Yes” to the invitation of God, became the Tabernacle of God, the very Mother of God, as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was conceived in her womb. It is the woman Mary who brought this life into the world, and she is rightly to be given special recognition, adulation, and love, for she is the purest of disciples. Just as the waters of the Red Sea were split open, freeing God’s People from slavery and establishing a covenant through the Law, the waters of Mary’s womb broke open, giving birth to the Son of God who would bring freedom to all through a New Covenant established in love. We are the sons and daughters of inheritance, chosen by God, and having accepted his invitation, also call Mary our mother, just as Jesus himself did.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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Benedictus!

Christmas Eve marks the final moment where the prophecies of salvation history will be fulfilled in the birth of a Messiah. The Gospel of Luke (1:67-79) gives us a beautiful song of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving that has become a part of the daily prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, for the Church, and rightly so. Each and every day of our lives, we are called to welcome Jesus, to ask him in, to recommit ourselves to be his follower. By God’s grace, we live out our faith, daily conforming ourselves to Christ, in the hope of eternal life with the Resurrected Son of God. Let us pray, giving praise and thanksgiving to God in the words of Zechariah:

“’Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our father and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.’”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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Confess Jesus

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (NAB, ROM 10:9-10) This verse of Scripture is often misapplied by those trying to establish that salvation is secured by a single act on the part of a believer. “Just say it, and you’re saved.” I like to quote the great Scott Hahn, who sharply says, “A text taken out of context is a pretext.” In other words, you can’t simply quote the English translation of a biblical text without considering the greater context of the passage, book, and entire Bible itself. One who does so is exposed to great danger of misunderstanding what was meant and failing to see the Truth in God’s Word.

One consideration is that for a person at the time of Christ, to confess that Jesus is Lord, that person would be committing treason. The only person to be publicly proclaimed as lord was the Roman Emperor; to call Jesus “Lord” could very easily result in one’s torture and execution. To confess with the lips was a profound act of faith and trust in God, both of which result from the gift of God’s grace.

Secondly, there is no reason to believe that confessing Jesus as Lord is a one-time deal. Quite the contrary. The reality, substantiated by the full context of Scripture (cf., MT 10, 2TM 2, HEB 4, HEB 10, etc.), is that we are to continually confess Jesus as Lord, throughout our lives, until our physical death, and when we sin, we are to reconcile ourselves with those whom we’ve sinned against and with God, and “then bring your gift to the altar.” (MT 5:23-24) Thus, by God’s grace, we are all called to “work out [our] salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), as we confess Jesus as our Lord by faith and through our works of love.

Jesus, I accept you as my Lord, and I thank you for the gift of grace given to me. Increase my faith so that my very life becomes my confession, that every word that goes forth from my mouth (nay, from my heart), gives you honor and glory through all that I do as your disciple. Amen.

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