Monday, September 7th, 2020

‘Benedicta tu!’: a Sermon for the Birthday of Mary

[Preached on the 8th of September to high-school students.] 

Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise;
from you rose the sun of Justice, Christ our God.

So, the Virgin Mary is real. In case there were any doubt. And so today is a big deal. It is a big deal because of the words I quoted a moment ago: indeed, Our Lady deserves all praise because she is the mother of Christ our God. What’s more, all the mysteries of Mary are like a golden thread woven through history. And without this thread—without her—we would not have things as they now are. Might God have arranged things differently? Indeed. Only, he did not. And so our love of Mary is very simple, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise: ‘Blessed are you, Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise; from you rose the sun of Justice, Christ our God.’

But in order for Mary to be who she is, to have done what she did, and to do now what she continues to do, of course, first she had to be born. That is what we celebrate today.—The beginning of a life so beautiful and great.

Remember that God’s plan for history hangs together in a perfectly ordered way. The phrase we use to describe this plan is Divine Providence. We may look around the world now and not see very much order and goodness, but believe me it’s there. God is not making it up along the way, and we’re celebrating one of the high points of his plan right now; and nothing, however bad, can take it away. Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary.

However, in just the same way, nothing can ever remove you or me from our place in Divine Providence. The proof is in the woman we are commemorating now. Today she is born; we see how she fits into the divine plan for human history; and, on account of her fidelity, everything was goodness and victory. You and I are not the Virgin Mary. But we were born; we are part of the same plan; and our lives can be all goodness and victory if we are faithful. We may not have a leading role in the drama of history, but we are actors in the same play—and just because we may not be sitting in the first chair, that doesn’t mean we aren’t playing in the same symphony.

In light of all that, and by way of conclusion, three practical things occur to me to mention; three things that we ought to do. First, to realize that there is indeed a divine plan; that it is all goodness and nothing can derail it; and that we personally have a place in it. Second, Catholics ought to be especially skilled at rejoicing wherever they see God at work—either in themselves or in others. Everything that is good and pure gives us some little glimpse of the Virgin Mary; and we shall be happier and stronger in God if we begin to see Mary, however hidden, wherever we look. Third, we ought never to grow bored with marveling at Mary. ‘Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving all praise!’ When you find it hard to pray, simply tell God how wonderful the Virgin Mary is; the Lord Jesus never ignores or treats lightly a compliment toward his Mother.


{Art credit: detail, The Virgin Mary as a Praying Child (1660), Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664); The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.}

Homilies & Sermons, Our Lady