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Mary’s Christmas

May we all similarly bring the Christ into our families, by taking our Blessed Mother into our homes. 

In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio published in 1981, Pope St. John Paul II observes, “The situation in which the family finds itself presents positive and negative aspects … On the one hand, in fact, there is a more lively awareness of personal freedom and greater attention to the quality of interpersonal relationships in marriage, to promoting the dignity of women, to responsible procreation, to the education of children. … On the other hand, however, signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values:  a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.” 

He warns, “At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.”

The Holy Father’s prophecy is as fresh and true for these times as it was when it was first written.  Though freedom has benefited humanity with an open environment with which to see, encounter and learn about what God has intended for the family, freedom has also given it the power to question, challenge and disobey God himself, along with the principles upon which the bonds of the family are founded.  To this situation, the Holy Father proposes the Christian notion of “selflessness”: “To the injustice originating from sin – which has profoundly penetrated the structures of today’s world – and often hindering the family’s full realization of itself and of its fundamental rights, we must all set ourselves in opposition through a conversion of mind and heart, following Christ Crucified by denying our own selfishness … “

Selflessness naturally springs from a realization of God’s own selfless love for all of us, and from a firm resolve to respond with that same selfless love for him and for others.  The image of our crucified Lord not only shows how much our Father in heaven is willing to give to reconcile a disobedient humanity to himself; it also unambiguously shows what we can do to protect our families in order to transform the world.

Our Blessed Mother Mary is the most perfect human exemplar of holy selflessness, of Christian discipleship, of praising and remaining faithful and obedient to God until death: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”  She is also the most perfect human model of trust in him who chastises and reforms selfishness, in order to restore harmony in nature, and enforce balance in the cosmos: “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.  He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.  He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

In today’s solemnity of the Virgin Mary as Θεοτόκος (Theotokos), or the “bearer of God”, we are called to reflect once more on Joseph’s action in doing “what the angel of the Lord had told him to do … he took his wife to his home.”  May we all similarly bring the Christ into our families, by taking our Blessed Mother into our homes.  And may our tireless devotion to her through fervent and heartfelt daily prayer, through proper reception of Grace in the sacraments, and through careful observance of the Master’s teachings and commandments; and to her own selfless “example of humble and generous acceptance of the will of God” through perseverance in charity and a quiet, patient and humble service of those in need or those who cannot or will not love us in return, deliver us to the tranquility of forever!

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

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