Vatican City, Jan 1, 2024 / 10:15 am (CNA).
Pope Francis began the new year by urging his fellow Catholics to entrust 2024 to the Mother of God, who “knows our needs” and always intercedes to “make grace overflow in our lives.”
The pope made his appeal during Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 1 for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. He called upon Catholics to consecrate their lives to Mary, noting that “she will lead us to Jesus, who himself is ‘the fullness of time.’”
“All of us have our shortcomings, our times of loneliness, our inner emptiness that cries out to be filled,” Francis said in his homily. “Who can do that, if not Mary, the Mother of fullness?”
Throughout his homily, the pope reflected on Mary’s significance as the Mother of God, a title first attributed to the Blessed Mother at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD in order to underscore the divinity of Christ.
Given Mary’s role as the “means chosen by God” for entering into human history with the birth of Christ, Francis said it is “fitting that the year should open by invoking her.”
“For those words, Mother of God, express the joyful certainty that the Lord, a tiny Child in his Mama’s arms, has united himself forever to our humanity, to the point that it is no longer only ours, but his as well,” the pope said.
An icon of the “nursing Madonna” forms the backdrop for the Mass at St. Peters on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis also underscored Mary’s continued role in mediating the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians today, just as she did at Pentecost.
“The motherhood of Mary is the path leading us to the paternal tenderness of God, the closest, most direct and easiest of paths,” Pope Francis said.
The pope continued, noting that Mary “leads us to the beginning and heart of faith, which is not a theory or a task, but a boundless gift that makes us beloved sons and daughters, tabernacles of the Father’s love.”
Therefore, Pope Francis said, “welcoming the Mother into our lives is not a matter of devotion but a requirement of faith.” The pope emphasized this point by quoting Paul VI, who said in a 1970 homily that “If we want to be Christians, we must be ‘Marians.’”
Consistent with one of his ongoing points of emphasis, Francis also underscored that Mary can help the Church “to recover her own feminine face.”
The Pope has previously called for greater reflection on the “feminine dimension” of the Church. At a Nov. 30 meeting with members of the International Theological Commission, he emphasized the need for more women in theology and decried “masculinization” of the Church as “a great sin.”
Francis also said that every society needs to “respect, defend, and esteem women,” and that “whosoever harms a single woman profanes God, who was ‘born of a woman.’”
In his Jan. 1 homily, the Pope encouraged Christians to turn more readily to the Blessed Mother for aid and intercession.
“Whenever we are tempted to retreat into ourselves, let us run to her; whenever we are no longer able to untie the knots in our lives, let us seek refuge in her.”
He also noted Mary’s vital role in bringing harmony to the world in a time “bereft of peace.”
“Let us look to Mary, in order to become artisans of unity.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily with a prayer that 2024 would “be filled with the tender maternal love of Mary, the Holy Mother of God,” and invited those gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica to proclaim all together the Marian title being celebrated at the Mass.
“Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!”