“God is with Us, Mary Walks with Us”
Homily on the Occasion of the Annual Archdiocesan Cruzada Guadalupana
December 3, 2022; St. Mary’s Cathedral
Readings: Zac 2, 14-17; Jdt 13; Lk 1:39-47
Apparently, our God is crying for joy to see us once again reunited to honor the Mother of His Son. And it is indeed a great joy for us to do so. But even in the most distressing times, such as the pandemic which we have just endured, God is always there with us, guiding us, and sending His special agents, both women and men, the great protagonists in His plan of salvation for us, to save us from disaster and lead us to Him.
God Present in History
Our prayer in the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Mass is a good example of that. It is the acclamation of the ancient people of Israel in extolling their fellow citizen Judith, who saved them from their dreaded enemy and powerful neighboring nation, the Assyrians. As the ancient story relates, the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar sent his general Holofernes to besiege the Jewish city of Bethulia. Judith, described as a beautiful young widow, resolves to save her people by slaying Holofernes herself.
After reciting a long prayer to God, she dons her finest clothes in order to subdue him. Holofernes partied with His friends, and apparently too much because he ended up drinking too much wine and passed out. At that point, Judith took advantage of the opportunity to slay Holofernes, thereby saving her people from being massacred. And so her people extolled her with the acclamation we just prayed, “You are the highest honor of our race.”
Fulfillment in the Virgen Mary
Of course, this is just the prelude to the greatest of God’s acts of salvation for us, accomplished through His most beloved daughter, Mary of Nazareth. She truly is the greatest honor of our race: not the Jewish race nor even the Latin race; not the Slavic race nor the Arab race; not even the Italian race! But rather, the human race. She is the one preserved from sin to be perfectly, single-heartedly dedicated to God and so to carry out His will to save us, His people, by bringing His Son into the world to be our Savior. And she, too, is always with us, accompanying us on the way to her Son. This is who Mary is, always there to encounter and accompany us.
We see that in how she reacted after receiving the news that she was going to be the Mother of God’s Son. Notice how St. Luke tells us that that Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both of them knew that God was working out the final step in His plan of salvation for the human race, which was developing within their wombs. Mary accompanies her older relative Elizabeth, to share her joy and help her in her time of need. Truly she is the greatest honor of our race, all beautiful, all pure, always there to be with us.
In Our Life Today
And so, in response to the exhortation of the prophet Zechariah, with Jerusalem we too can sing and rejoice because God comes to live in our midst. He came to dwell with us when His Son was born of the Virgin Mary, and he continues to come and dwell with us when he makes himself present in the holy Eucharist on the altar in response to the command he gave us, “Do this in memory of me.” Through the words of the priest, repeating those words he gave us at the Last Supper, the Word of God himself, God’s Son, makes himself present under the appearances of bread and wine: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
And so we can rejoice because God is with us, and God’s Mother accompanies us to take us to Him. This is our greatest joy, God present in our midst. No matter what any other suffering we may endure – economic hardship, poor health, fear resulting from vulnerability, even the emotional and financial distress of a pandemic – we can rejoice because God is with us. This no one can take from us: our faith, and the sharing of our faith, coming together to worship God and honor the greatest honor of our race, the Mother of His Son.
Let us rejoice, for Mary walks with us. After Mass we will sing one of our most cherished hymns to our Lady, repeating the refrain, “Come walk with us, Holy Mary, come.”
Of course, she always comes to walk with us. The reason we ask her to do so is not to get her to pay attention to us so that she will come and walk with us, but rather to open our hearts in welcome, so that we might be ready to receive her when she comes and we might walk by her side, that we might be ready to welcome her Son with open arms and open heart, he who comes to meet us, to save us, and to take us to the house of his Father.
Photo: Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco