Fr. Peter Robinson
Preached: December 24-25, 2023
On this holy Christmas morning, we find ourselves surrounded by gifts! I remember, as a child, dragging my dad out of bed in the pitch darkness at 0500 in the morning. Then, my sisters and I would race to the Christmas tree to see what “Santa” had left us. Meanwhile, dad was soon sound asleep again — on the couch. As you all know from experience, those moments are burned into our memories for the rest of life.
So, this morning I want to turn our attention to a wonderful gift that God himself has given to us on this Christmas Day. In particular, I’m referring to an event that happened many years after Jesus was born. I’m speaking of the occasion in Luke’s Gospel (11:27) when Jesus, performing a miracle, heard a woman’s voice call out in the crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!”
Because Jesus’ miracles gave proof of his divine power, this woman wanted to honour not just Jesus, but his mother, too. That is, given Jesus’ greatness as a miracle-worker, this woman wanted his mother to share in that greatness. After all, she gave him birth, right? Millenia later, that woman was right — think of every Rosary that you have ever prayed: “Hail Mary … blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb …”
But the Lord Jesus had another priority: that is, he did not wish for people to seek happiness only in a purely physical relationship. That is why he replied: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” You see, as great as the honour is that we give to Mary in a physical way (because she is Jesus’ birth mother), Mary is to be blessed in another way, in a spiritual way: she, as a teenage woman, heard God’s word and kept it.
Which is why, in Jesus’ opinion, Mary is truly blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind — even while she carried the body of God’s Son in her womb. The truth of Jesus’ identity (as God the Son) and the body of Jesus (the man) were both Christ.
Four centuries after Jesus, St Augustine would write that Jesus was kept in Mary’s mind, insofar as he is truth; and he was carried in her womb, insofar as he is man. But St Augustine teaches that what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.
So, though the Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, the Church is greater than she. Why? Because Mary is a part of the Church. She is the first member of the Church, the first to profess and follow Jesus. She is a holy and eminent – in fact, the most eminent – disciple of Jesus. But she is still only a member of the entire body of the Church. The body of the Church is greater than Mary, who is the first of its members. In fact, this body of the universal Church has the Lord Jesus himself for its head. And the head (who is divine) and the body (which is us, and all believers) together make up the whole Church — including Mother Mary.
Brothers and sisters, on this Christmas morning our greatest gift (from God himself) is belonging to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church: of belonging to Jesus, through the Church, and to his beloved mother, Mary.
4th Sunday Of Advent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 24, 2023
Mary could have said No! In this account of the Annunciation, we see Mary say her Yes, her Fiat. Her Yes was crucial and made a huge difference for all of us. All of us also have daily decisions to make, big or small, where we are free to say No. Our Yes like that of Mary can make a big difference. Some examples of how our Yes can make a difference:
- Yes to a Kind word instead of being harsh.
- Yes to taking moment of silence instead of being distracted by noise and busyness.
- Yes to going to visit a friend, especially if someone in need.
- Yes to forgiving someone.
- Yes to doing something kind.
- Yes to not yelling when upset at someone, especially in our family.
- Yes to praying for our family and friends.
- Yes to using language that builds others up rather than tearing them down.
- Yes to seeing reasons for hope rather than just all that is dark and negative.
- Yes to sitting and listening to a friend who is struggling.
Every day, we are like Mary being asked to be an instrument of God, to give birth to Jesus in our lives. We are free. Our Yes, like the Yes of Mary makes a difference. Our Yes allows the presence of God’s Word to enter our world.
It can be discouraging to watch on the news, the war in Ukraine, the destruction in Gaza, the reality of homelessness and other human struggles. It could be easy to just give up or to become discouraged by it all. By doing our little bit to be an instrument of peace in our own family, in our own community, we are working against the world of violence and human division. By saying Yes in our small ways we are one small light allowing God to enter our world.
At her time, Mary must have not understood how she could make any difference or be an instrument of God. A poor simple woman in a small unimportant land. It is not surprising that the first words to her were, “Be not afraid.” But, her Yes allowed the Word of God to enter our world.
Say Yes like Mary in small ways each day. Your daily Yes makes a difference, you can be a temple carrying the Word of God into our world.
Solemnity Of Mary, Mother Of God
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 1, 2023
“May God be gracious and bless us and let His face shine upon us.”
This is the refrain from the psalm we have sung today and shows us the theme from today’s readings of blessings.
Blessing in our context means to have God’s presence in us and along with us each day.
A blessing first is not a powerless wish, or a hope, or a polite gesture, but instead it is an empowering and transforming word that accomplishes its purpose.
This is because a blessing does not come from us but has its source as the Father himself in God’s presence being bestowed upon us.
Father Mark or I, will be the first to tell you that if God was counting on us to be the transforming power in the world by our own strength and wisdom, the world would be in big trouble!
Instead, when a blessing is proclaimed, it is God himself who brings His presence into the world through the actions of the Holy Spirit, working through us and not because of us.
Whether it is the blessing of the water for baptism, the blessing during the sprinkling of water on us at Easter, or the blessing of the people as you exit the mass today – you can believe without a doubt that God is present.
At Christmas, we celebrate Christ physically born into the world and His presence among the people 2000 years ago.
But we also celebrate that He is still present to us as a blessing. He is present in the Eucharist of course, but He is also present each day when we love and care for another as we live our Christian faith.
I really like the beautiful quote from the play Les Miserables “to love another is to see the face of God”.
We are God’s blessing in the world today, and we are called also today to reflect on the blessing of Mary as our example and guide.
‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb – Jesus!”
These words are so well known to us in the Catholic Christian tradition – they are the words of scripture – from the voice of Elizabeth to her cousin Mary when she comes to visit her to help here during her pregnancy.
Elizabeth says the words we know so well that Mary is a blessing to us and Mary tells us this herself in her response to Elizabeth: “all generations will call me blessed, as the Almighty has done great things”!
We see Mary’s humility that we are called to emulate, as she doesn’t take credit for being blessed and full of grace; but gives that honour to God who has done great things through her.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! This beautiful phrase spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary, shows how God is present in our Holy Mother.
But these phrases are not meant for Mary alone, but also for us, as we are also called by our baptisms to do great things for others and be a blessing in their lives.
In the gospel we see this same message. The shepherds are blessed to be in the presence of the Holy Family when they visit the stable. But it doesn’t stop there as they respond to this blessing in their lives by “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” They spread the message of joy to all!
We are also to spread the message as well because as St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading: “So you are no longer a slave but God’s child, and if a child then also an heir”.
We are sons and daughters of God, we are heirs, we are entrusted to keep passing on the gifts of God to others, and as such, we are blessed!
This blessing we see in the beautiful teaching to Moses and Aaron the priests in the first reading today, where he shows them how they are to bless the people.
He has a threefold blessing for them:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you” – in other words to make himself present to you and protect you on your journey!
“May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you” – therefore to have his face shine on you is to make his presence known to you (to see him face to face and not hidden or far away or unreachable) and fill you with his grace and love.
“May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” – in other words may God pay attention to you and give you fullness of life – the word peace is “shalom” – which means – peace, prosperity, health, safety, completeness and having nothing to fear.
This is the true meaning of peace today – not just an absence of war – but instead a full and completed life given through and with God.
As we begin this New Year – Father will invoke this blessing on us at the end of mass today – may we be truly gracious and humble as God brings his presence into our lives in this most exceptional of ways and may we be blessings to others as we bring his joy, love, peace and kindness into their lives!
Truly, “May God be gracious and bless us and let His face shine upon us.”
Feast Of The Assumption
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 15, 2021
Do Catholics worship Mary? There are some fundamentalist Christians who will accuse us of worshipping Mary. But, any good Catholic knows that we do not worship Mary. We do honour and show devotion to Mary. As the mother of Jesus, she was an instrument of God’s grace, a model to each of us in living as disciples of Jesus and living with a heart fully open to the Holy Spirit. Already in the early New Testament time of the church, we see that the Christians offered devotion to Mary.
In Luke’s Gospel we just heard the great prayer of Mary that we call the Magnificat. There is so much in this prayer that we discover about Mary, how she prayed, how she viewed life and humanity. In the Magnificat Mary says about herself, “… all generations will call me blessed.” Two thousand years later we continue to call Mary blessed, continue to honour her with special devotion and love.
All of the Dogmas and teachings about Mary teach us something about Jesus and about us as disciples of Jesus. For this reason it is helpful to reflect and meditate on the Dogmas of the Church about Mary. They shed light on the identity and mission of Jesus. They also shed light on the call and life of the disciples of Jesus.
Today on August 15, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption. This is one of the oldest Feasts of Mary. It was already a major Feast by the 5th Century. This Dogma of the Assumption reveals the mission of Jesus who leads us beyond death into eternal life. Through his death and resurrection Jesus is leading us into eternal glory in the heart of God. The Assumption shows us the transition from this earthly life to the glory of heaven. Jesus is the Saviour who leads the way, and Mary, the mother of Jesus already shares in the glory of heaven through her Son. This teaches us about our destiny, where we are going.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we heard in our second reading today, Paul says, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is something frightening, an enemy to us human beings. Deep inside us is a hunger for eternity, longing that our loves in this life will not come to an end. We feel it painfully within when a loved one dies. Jesus came to destroy death, in his death and resurrection, he has opened up the path to eternal life. God’s plan is not for our destruction. In the Catholic funeral prayers we express clearly that “death is not the end.”
As we age we begin to reflect on death and how we prepare for our death. One of the keys that I have seen in people is the need for forgiveness. We need to forgive those who have hurt us, we need to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes, we need to forgive life for having been unfair, we even need to forgive God sometimes. Disciples of Jesus should not die bitter and angry. Mary did not die bitter and angry. She died in peace and light. United in such a deep and intimate way with her Son, she followed into the glory of heaven.
We Catholics do not worship Mary, but we continue to call her blessed and show her devotion and love. We reflect and meditate on the Dogmas about Mary because they reveal important truths about Jesus and about us as disciples of Jesus. The Dogma of the Assumption offers a beautiful vision of our destiny. That death is not the end and that this life leads to the glory of heaven.
Like Mary we need to prepare for our death by being united to Jesus. One of the keys to this is the need for forgiveness in all areas of our life. We are like Mary and faithful to the Feast of the Assumption when we prepare for our death so that we are able to die without being bitter or angry.
Feast of Mary Mother of God
Fr. Paul Patrick, O.M.I.
Posted: December 31, 2020
1.0 Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
Today in the Catholic Church we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God while at the same time around the world, we celebrate New Year’s Day. The title “Mother of God” is a translation of the Greek word Theotokos which literally means “the Bearer of God” Thus, today we are reminded of the role which Mary, the Mother of God, played in our salvation.
The reason why we venerate Mary as Mother of God is precisely because by her co-operation with God’s plan for her, she brought salvation to the entire world in the form of Jesus Christ. Mary remains an excellent model for us in our daily struggle to give our ‘yes’ to God and follow His plan for us in our own personal lives.
When we think about the life of a great person who has passed on, oftentimes we use this phrase to describe them: “That person’s life was a blessing to others” Mary, Mother of God’s life was indeed – a blessing to others.
2.0 First Reading and a Blessing
In the First Reading (Numbers 6:22-27) we hear a beautiful blessing which the Lord gives to His people through Moses. This ancient Jewish blessing is generally referred to as the Priestly blessing and consists of 3 parts. “The LORD bless you and keep you. (1) The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. (2) The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (3) (cf. Numbers 6:24)
The first part contains a word in Hebrew “Yeesh’merecha” translated as “keep you” but also has many meanings including “guard” “save” and “protect” The second and third parts contain an idiom in Hebrew “‘The LORD make His face to shine upon you/lift up His countenance upon you” which means that a person will benefit from God’s goodness to them. The blessing ends with a wish for peace.
3.0 Being a Blessing for Others
Blessings should be understood in this two-fold way: God fills us with his graces so that, like Mary, Mother of God, we in turn go out and make a difference – or be a blessing – in the lives of others. Blessings are not mere pious images to comfort us, but they are actual moments where God fills us with His graces, and in return, God expects that we spread that blessing among everyone we meet in our lives, both those we love, and those we dislike (cf Matthew 5:43-44)
Let 2021 be a year in which, having received the blessing of God, we cast aside bitterness, anger, disillusion, hatred, division, and in its place substitute the blessing, peace and love of God.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Happy New Year and Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!