“The Blessedness of the Mother of God Is the Blessedness of the Disciple”

Homily for Mass of the Americas at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City
January 15, 2022


During these weeks of January the Church has us continue to savor the Christmas mysteries.  Indeed, wondrous mysteries continue to unfold before us as we make our pilgrimage to the Feast Day of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, after which the Church has us turn our attention toward the upcoming Lenten season.

The Epiphany Mysteries

The days we are in right now, though, have us in the midst of the three Epiphany mysteries: beginning with the visit of the Magi, then the Baptism of our Lord which we celebrated last Sunday, and finally our Lord’s first miracle at Cana which will be the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday’s Mass, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Church has always understood these mysteries as particular moments in the life of our Lord in which he manifests his divine glory.  As Dom Guéranger puts it: “At Bethlehem, the Gold of the Magi expressed the Divinity of the Babe; at the Jordan, the descent of the Holy Ghost and the voice of the Eternal Father proclaimed Jesus (known to the people as a carpenter of Nazareth) to be the Son of God; at Cana, it is Jesus himself that acts, and he acts as God”.[1]

These Epiphany mysteries culminate in a wedding feast, where the beloved disciple tells us that “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory” (Jn 2:11).  It was a wedding feast, because it was a marriage that our Lord came to consummate in this world, the marriage of his divinity with our humanity.  That is why in this particular Epiphany mystery he “acts as God.”  So it is that the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary is rightfully called a bridal chamber: it was there that the two natures of divinity and humanity were fused together in the human Incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. 

The Blessedness of the Mother of God

We, too, want to call out with the woman in the Gospel proclaiming the blessedness of Mary for carrying the Son of God in her womb and nursing him at her breasts.  How we wish we could be blessed like her; yet, we can.  The honor of being the Mother of God’s Son was, of course, a singular grace that God bestowed upon her from without.

 Yet, this is only the physical manifestation of her true blessedness, which came from her interior disposition of hearing the word of God and observing it, as our Lord declares in response to the woman in today’s Gospel.  As St. Augustine teaches us, she first conceived God in her heart, which then disposed her to this singular privilege with which God graced her.  He explains: “the near relationship of mother would not have profited Mary, had she not happily conceived Christ in her heart as well as in her womb.  Mary, therefore, was more blessed in receiving faith in Christ than in conceiving the flesh of Christ.”[2]

The Miracle of the Eucharist

So we can, then, be blessed as Mary, for while Mary’s Motherhood is unique to her, her discipleship is open to all.  And let us not forget the great privilege that her Son gives us.  While at Cana he performed a miracle for that poor newlywed couple of changing water into wine, for us poor sinners he performs an even greater miracle: upon the altar at every Mass, he changes wine into his blood.  He received his blood in the womb of his Mother, and now he gives that blood to us in the Holy Eucharist. 

This is how he unites his nature with ours.  He, the Word of God, became flesh and made his dwelling among us, as St. John tells us in the Prologue to his Gospel, the Gospel reading we heard proclaimed on Christmas Day.  The Father speaks His Word, and His Son becomes flesh; the Son speaks his word through his priest, and bread becomes his flesh.  As Mary’s womb, so every altar becomes a bridal chamber in which the marriage between divinity and humanity is accomplished in our own bodies.

Do we live our lives as worthy of such a marriage, as a worthy spouse in this sacramental sense?  Marriages break up when the spouses no longer revere each other as they thought they did on their wedding day.  They begin to take each other for granted as the grind of day-to-day life sets in.  And we run the same risk if we lose sight of the miracle our Lord gives us at every Mass.  The Mass can become an empty ritual, a routine duty among so many others we must regularly fulfill.  As a married couple must always be conscientiously rekindling their love for each other, so we must do with the life of faith.  For it is only the eyes of faith that can perceive beyond the appearances to the gift our Lord gives us of his body and blood at every Mass.

The Blessedness of the Disciple

The word of God is proclaimed in the Eucharistic assembly.  The word of Christ is then pronounced by the priest at the altar, and the Word once again becomes flesh.  Hearing this word and observing it, in imitation of our Blessed Mother, is the way to our own blessedness.  The disciple first of all hears God’s word. 

Think about what it means for a married couple to hear each other, to truly listen.  The disciple is no casual listener, distracted with all kinds of preoccupations and worldly thoughts before God’s word.  No, the disciple listens with an open mind, seeking to understand.  And then the disciple puts into practice what he has heard and understood: seeking to live the life of grace in the sacramental life of the Church; seeking God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance; striving with the help of God’s grace to live his vocation faithfully and well, to be a witness of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness in the workplace and all social interactions; finding joy in works of charity and in serving the poor. 


This is true blessedness, as our Lord teaches us and as his Mother shows us.  “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”  With this utterance in response to the angel, our Blessed Mother conceived our Blessed Lord in her blessed womb: the miracle of the Incarnation became manifest, and our eternal salvation was accomplished.  This Covenant is renewed at every Mass, when his flesh and blood once again become manifest in our midst.

The Mother of God gave our Lord his blood, which he gives us in the Holy Eucharist.  She is, indeed, our Mother, who is always showing us the way to her divine Son.  Through her he humbled himself to share in our humanity; by imitating her example and relying on her motherly intercession, may we come to share in his divinity.

[1] Abbot Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, v.  3: Christmas Book II, 4th ed.  Rev.  Dom Laurence Shepherd (trans.) (Great Falls, Montana: St. Bonaventure Publications, 2000) p.  243.

[2] The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide, The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark, The Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke Thomas W.  Mossman (trans.) (Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 2008) p.  303.