January 1, 2022
Growing up in the early 1940s, we were taught more about Mary and devotions to her than we were taught about Jesus – in my catechism classes at least.
Over the centuries, our Catholic Church created a goddess-like cult for Mary. She was much more approachable than Jesus, it seemed, and equally powerful, we were led to believe.
There was much talk about her appearances to little children, especially in Lourdes and Fatima. Of course, there was the annual novena honoring our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
It was in the years after the mid-sixties [and] the Second Vatican Council, that today’s Solemnity was changed from the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus to the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. It was the era where the Catholic Church turned back to our Sacred Scriptures, emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus, reading his words and focusing our attention on living truly as his followers and loving beyond discrimination.
In that sense, Mary has taken a more second place to Jesus as the Son is more clearly important than his mother, but his mother is very important to Jesus, and Jesus wishes that she continues to be for each of us.
There is, of course, the venerable prayer that we call “The Hail Mary,” but really, we need to be more creative than that. Like Jesus, Mary prefers more real, more personal prayers than just repeating a prayer that we learned in childhood.
There are hundreds of titles that Catholics have given to Mary over the centuries, hundreds of shrines dedicated to her, hundreds of prayers created by others for us to read and to pray. But we need to come to know the personal Mary, with our personal prayer and conversation. With anything repeated over and over, like the Hail Mary prayer, it can become mechanical and just become a repetition of words.
Today, I would like to introduce to you a new title of Mary, Mary Untier of Knots. Pope Francis has introduced her to us as his most favorite as he did in Argentina. Pope Francis came to know Mary in this manner when he was a student priest studying in Augsburg, Germany when he was 24, over 60 years ago. He came upon an 18th century painting of her by a German painter in St. Peter Church there.
The painting was inspired by a married couple who suffered many personal issues in their marriage. A Jesuit priest invited the couple to work on their relationship with Mary. The Jesuit priest was devoted to Mary’s work as the Untier of Knots inspired by the words of the 2nd century Bishop of Lyons, France – St. Irenaeus.
St. Irenaeus wrote: “The knots of disobedience of the First woman were undone by the obedience of Mary.” The knot Eve created was undone by the Virgin Mary through Faith.
Thus Mary, the Untier of Knots.
How many knots do we have? They happen in relationships, in our finances, in our work, at school, in personal issues and problems of our life.
But remember this – that Mary can help untie our knots only if we help untie them and keep them untied. Mary comes with her wisdom, her trust in God, in her own sense of personal responsibility and with what she learned from others.
Some knots in our life are tied so tightly by us that it takes a lot more work to untie them. Mary has the time if we have the time!
Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us, work for us, inspire us to inspire ourselves.
Today, we honor Mary in her principal role as the Holy Mother of God and the natural birth mother of Jesus.
Many Protestant Christians bristle when we use this title, the Mother of God, to honor Mary, but it is true and an accurate title. She is the mother of Jesus who is the Son of God, and in a mysterious way, the real mother of God in human flesh.
Finally, I want to point out three important words from today’s Scripture that describe something about Mary as a person and personality. While we would be interested in more biographical information about Mary, the Gospel written says a mouth-full describing her as a person “who kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary understood herself as a child of God, chosen beyond her understanding. She never forgot, was totally aware of what was happening as it happened, and marveled in every moment. She was “with it” in a most simple and profound way – because she took the time to be, to be in awe, to live the past in the present.
Our second reading from St. Paul stresses how God has adopted us. It all happened because Mary gave birth to a Jesus whose name means “that he saves.” Without Mary, we would never know our God, the Abba-daddy, we would never have known how much God could love us. Why did the Church put God so far from us? God became a feudal Lord who treated us as peasants and slaves. That was never intended by God and certainly, St. Paul reminds us of that today, because of Mary, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” So, God is now our loving Papa.
And lastly, once again at the beginning of a New Year 2022, the Lord God blesses us, promising to protect us, to smile upon us, to be kind and gracious, to look gently at us and to calm us down with his peace and strength.
God reminds us that all we have to do is to cherish and to do toward Him as we wish to be done for ourselves.
Are we up to the challenge? How will we respond to his invitation?