Fr. Paul MacNeil
New Years' Day 2023 - Mary, Mother of God
A few months ago, a child at one of our children’s Masses asked, “what would the world be like if Jesus Hadn’t been born?” What a great question. Another way of asking that is to ask what would have happened if Mary, whose major feast we celebrate today, had not said yes to the Angel Gabriel. Then Jesus would not have been born, but would our world be different?
Maybe not, at least not on the surface. In the days and years, and centuries before Jesus, humanity struggled with death, suffering, and sin. We struggle with the same thing today. This is something that we know. The difference is in how we experience hope.
Before Jesus came into the world, the people of God (i.e. everyone) recognized that this life of suffering, death, and sin was not the way it was supposed to be - consider the garden of Eden. This was expressed biblically in the idea of a messiah. This hope is certainly real, we still have it today. We read about it a lot in the season of advent, which talks about the idea of a great leader, a messiah, who would deliver humanity from all its suffering.
But this is not the same hope we have after the messiah's arrival. A metaphor might help illustrate this. Imagine someone holding a lottery ticket. You know that if these numbers match the numbers of a draw, you could be a very wealthy person. Your hope is in that possibility, so you hold onto that ticket until the draw. This is the kind of hope that people have before the arrival of Jesus. It's a real hope, to be sure, but what if you win? Then your ticket becomes something different. It becomes "redeemable." But you must wait until you can get to the lottery office and claim your winnings. Between the time you realize you won the lottery and the time you claim your ticket is a season of hope. It's a very different kind of hope than before you know you won. It is a hope filled with joy and happiness, and expectation.
This is the kind of hope we have after the birth of Jesus. Until Jesus came and dwelt among us, it remained only that - a hope. But once he came, he revealed to us, in a way, the winning numbers, not just the winning numbers, but the reality that you’ve won, you’re ultimately saved. But you still have to wait. Can you use that ticket to buy a new house or a new car? No, not exactly; you still have to claim your prize. But imagine what that feels like to be holding that ticket.
I began with a child's question, what would the world be like if Jesus hadn’t been born? We wouldn’t have the winning ticket, but our condition would be the same, and we don’t get to cash that ticket in until the next life. But our hope is different. We know we’ve won, that Jesus paid the price for that ticket, and that we will be saved. The redeeming ticket is Jesus Christ himself.
The question can be framed slightly differently for today’s feast: What if Mary had said no to the Angel Gabriel?
This is why we celebrate Mary the Mother of God today. This is why we thank Mary for her yes to God and for changing our hope. Will you also say yes to God today and allow the joy of redemption to fill every corner of your life?
Here is a lovely saying from Henry Van Dyke:
Time is too slow for those who wait
Too swift for those who fear
Too long for those who grieve
Too short for those who rejoice
But to those who love, time is eternity.