MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

-       Luke 2: 18

   This might seem to some as a fearfully exaggerated title for Mary. But, as with all things concerning Mary, it is not about her, but her Son. It points to the divinity of Jesus. To deny her this title would be to deny that Jesus is the Son of God. If anything should amaze us here, it is the assertion that our Lord is divine. Weíve heard this so much that we have become numb to the implication. What does it mean to be divine? We think of such adjectives as all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, etc., but that is not the side of the Father that Jesus showed us. He showed us humility, compassion, unstoppable love, & joy.

   Not surprisingly, I like the story of a saint to makes the point. In this case, one by the name of Pierre Toussaint, whose cause for canonization is now before the church. The vice postulator for his cause is the pastor of St. Peterís Church in downtown Manhattan where Toussaint attended daily mass for almost seven decades. According to Msgr. Robert OíConnell, ďhe was a very holy man who reached out to help everyone who needed any kind of help, & it never made any difference to him about the color of the other personís skin.Ē Like most saints, he did not clamor for public attention, but quietly let his actions leave their own eloquent message as his legacy.

   Born into slavery in the French colony of Haiti in 1766, Toussaint was among the 800,000 slaves who made it easy for the French plantation owners to mass huge amounts of wealth from the coffee & sugar crops. But when the French revolution exploded & the slaves lashed out with their own uprising, many of the slave owners packed up & fled. Jean Berard du Pithon, Toussaintís master, fled to New York City with his wife, his sister, four slaves, & Toussaint.

   When du Pithon fell on hard times in the city & eventually died, Toussaint stayed on with his masterís family &, for the next 20 years, supported them with the money he earned as a hairdresser. Beyond that, Toussaint & his wife Juliette, who was also a slave, made their modest home a haven for orphaned black children, raised them, & eventually even found jobs for them. He even raised enough money (through his wealthy customers) for a special home for orphans that had been built by a priest & that helped those who needed food, medicine, or clothing.

   When, on her deathbed, his late masterís wife arranged for his freedom, Toussaint dedicated the rest of his life, & much of his money, toward ransoming the freedom of other slaves. He also spent the lionís share of his time visiting & nursing those who had been struck down by yellow fever or cholera.

   Pierre Toussaint died in New York City in 1853 at the age of 87. In reviewing Toussaintís life, both blacks & whites readily agree that nothing seemed more personally important & critical to Toussaint than sharing joy by helping others, even his own slave masters.

   Itís good to remember that Jesus brought joy to all He met Ė except his enemies. Imagine the joy of the blind whose sight Jesus restored, of the deaf who could suddenly hear, of the lame who could throw their crutches away! Jesus was the personification of joy to the world. This year, letís make it our mission to bring joy & encouragement to others. It is sorely needed in a world darkened by pain & sorrow.  AMEN!