*Mary and Bridget Mary shared paragraphs in dialogue style, followed by community conversation on homily starter questions below.
1. On Tuesday we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception centers on the belief that Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary, was conceived without sin. Pope Pius IX issued an apostolic constitution, known as the Ineffabilis Deus, on December 8, 1854, amidst a situation of seeking to preserve papal power.
2. We believe that the deep meaning of this feast is not only that Mary was filled with grace from the first moment of her existence, but all of us were filled with grace from the first moment of our existence too. Theologians today refer to this as the theology of original blessing. Original sin is a concept that was developed to understand the presence of evil in our world. No longer does the church teach that babies who die who are not baptized go to Limbo, so we have made progress in the understanding that from the first moment of our existence we are infinitely loved and called to love.
3. Since our community is named after Mary Mother of Jesus, we wanted to share a brief summary of what theologians are offering today to restore Mary to her rightful place as disciple and companion on the journey. Mary struggled with a unplanned pregnancy. She knew what it meant to be homeless and a refugee, and she was forced into exile in Egypt because of the threat of violence.
4. While it is true that Mary took over the shrines and titles of the Mother Goddess, Mary is not divine, but human. God needs to have her own maternal face. Patricia Fox, Australian theologian refers to God as Mother of Mercy. This is especially significant during this Holy Year. Mystics like Julian of Norwich calls God, our mother as did the late, John Paul 1. Meister Eckhart, the medieval mystic, reminds us that God needs to be born in every era. Like Mary, we are called to be mothers of Christ today.
5. Neither is Mary the ideal woman whom women should emulate, obedient and subordinate. From medieval times, this image has been dangerous to women’s well-being and resulted in abusive relationships. Think about trying to emulate Mary by becoming a virgin mother: in order to accomplish the one, a woman must sacrifice the other. Not a reasonable goal!
6. Mary was a Jewish woman of faith, a friend of God and prophet. Elizabeth Johnson suggests a beautiful image: “Mary lighting Sabbath lamps as Joseph blesses the bread and wine to begin the Sabbath meal.” There are many similarities between her life and the lives of poor women today who struggle to feed and clothe their families in tough times.
7. For example, Mary faced the challenges of homelessness. She gave birth in a barn and placed her baby in a manger. This was not a romantic setting in spite of Christmas cards. If you have ever been in a stable, you know it is smelly and filled with creepy, crawly critters. Shortly after Jesus birth, they became refugees, fleeing for their lives to Egypt. Today, we have millions of people seeking asylum, a similar situation, under grave threat to their lives and well-being.
8. In her book, Abounding in Kindness, Elizabeth Johnson reflects on Mary’s words: “They have no wine.” “” … far from keeping silent, she speaks, far from being passive, she acts, far from being receptive to the wishes of the leading man, she contradicts and persuades him otherwise, far from yielding to a grievous situation, she takes charge, organizing matters so that a bountiful abundance soon flows to those in need.”
9. In our world today we still have as Johnson observes “no wine, no food, no clean drinking water, no housing, education of health care, no employment, no security from rape, no human rights… As her words propel Jesus into action at Cana, her challenging words address the conscience of the church, the Body of Christ in the world today. They have no wine, You have to act.”
10. Mary is the first priest. She is the first who could say: “This is my body and this is my blood.” So Mary is a visible reminder of the priesthood of the people because all of us can and do say “You are the Body of Christ as we share the Body of Christ with our sisters and brothers, the Body of Christ.
11. Today we focused on Mary, as a model of discipleship as we prepare the way for our God this Advent and the question is how are we doing this?
Homily Starter Reflection Questions for Dialogue:
1. How are we being called today to speak out for and to take action for justice, for peace, for abundance for others?
2. Were there times when you were able to identify a need and take charge in order to help another person or persons?
3. Where are the places today in which “they have no wine and we have to act?”