Thursday, 1 January 2009

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God Year B

In the next few days traffic will pick up as students return to schools and warrior-mothers take to the road of sending children to school. The year end and the beginning of the year are marked by a return to school and in a way, the Liturgy is no different. As we continue to deepen our appreciation of the Incarnation, we herald in the new year with close attention to the Mother of Christ.

The 2nd Reading serves as an invitation to enter the school of Mary—this Mary whom Paul spoke of as the Woman through whom the Son of God came to be born. Luke’s Gospel not only tells us that she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart but points out to us that Mary is also the great Theotokos because she is the bearer of God our Saviour. To celebrate Mary at the beginning of the year is to enter the school of her discipleship.

What does it mean to enter the school of Mary?

The theme of the World Day for Peace is Fighting Poverty to Build Peace. Peace is the desired goal of our struggles. The abolishment of poverty is the means to attain that goal. If we understand poverty to be material deprivation, then the creation of wealth is as an exercise in the abolishment of poverty.

But, from the school of Mary, we learn that wealth or its possession is not the end poverty. Benedict XVI in his Message for the World Day of Peace speaks of the conditions of moral under-development or the negative consequences of super-development in wealthy country. A country may be wealthy but suffers from poor moral or spiritual health, that is, moral or spiritual poverty. Hence, poverty is not always material deprivation. But, what is significant is that wherever you encounter any form of externally imposed poverty, you will find that it has as its root a lack of respect for the transcendent dignity of the human person.

And, from Mary we learn that the transcendent dignity of the human person is to be found in the acknowledgement of who we really are before God. We are nothing and if at all we can boast of any possession, then we can boast of only one thing: our nothingness. This nothingness is the basis for Mary putting her entire trust in the Lord.

Mary’s posture before God teaches us that we will never win the fight against poverty out there if we do not, in the first place, acknowledge not so much the poverty that is imposed upon us but the poverty that is us. Poverty is the condition of the human person before God.

The acknowledgement of our nothingness is the basis for overcoming our selfishness—the selfishness which is an attributable cause for the current systemic failure in the world’s economic system. There is something lacking in our fight against “material” poverty when we think that the change of structure is going to solve our problems. At present there are talks that governments in the world are trying to reform the international financial system. Reform may just offer a temporary relief before the next wave of greed overwhelms the economic system again. This country, we all know, is awashed in natural resources. It has all ingredients for a truly amazing economy. But, no matter how much we have, it is never enough to withstand the rapacious or the systematic pillage of a few greedy people.

Reform must begin with the human heart. Greed is not what people do but rather an attitude which denies our true state of being as nothing before God. What we have witnessed as the unbridled amassing of wealth beyond an individual’s, a family’s or country’s need is not proof of greed but a sad confirmation that we have failed to address our poverty before God.

God created us poor not because He wants us to be poor but because He wants us to acknowledge our dependence on Him alone. He created us poor so that we may share His riches. Unless and until we acknowledge our nothingness, we cannot hope to arrive at peace. This is important as we enter a period of economic downturn that will affect everyone.

Only when we begin to acknowledge our nothing and that our being or our salvation comes from God alone that we will begin to acknowledge the other as brother or sister. In Mary, we learn that poverty is the expression of who we truly are. “He looks on His servant in her nothingness” became Mary’s impetus to visit Elizabeth her cousin. When we acknowledge our nothingness, then everything we have is a blessing from God and can be a blessing to others. Otherwise, material abundance becomes the curse of division and disunity.

So, as we enter the New Year, with hearts desiring peace for ourselves, our family and our nation, we ask Mary to teach us how to be true disciples who with faith and prayer accepts our nothingness and place our trust in God who alone can grant salvation and who desires to give to those who trust in Him.