Mary: Daughter of Israel, Mother of God, Queen of Peace

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The following is the text of Bishop Rhoades’ homily on New Year’s Eve at St. Louis, Besancon Parish. 

January 1st is the eighth day of the Octave of Christmas. For eight days, we celebrate with joyful solemnity the Nativity of the Lord. The only other time of the liturgical year we observe an Octave is for the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord, the Octave of Easter. I am happy to celebrate this last day of the Octave of Christmas with you here at St. Louis Parish.

It was on the eighth day after His birth that Our Lord was circumcised and officially given the name “Jesus,’ as we just heard in the Gospel. St. Luke tells us that the name was “given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Gabriel told Mary at the Annunciation that she was to give her son this name Yeshua (Aramaic), Joshua (Hebrew), Jesus (English). In Gabriel’s annunciation later to Joseph in a dream, he also told Joseph that Mary’s son was to be named Yeshua. On this day of the infant’s circumcision, they did as God’s messenger asked them. 

The very name of God is contained in the name Yeshua. In Hebrew, The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.”  This name expresses Jesus’ identity as God and also His mission as Savior. It is the divine name that brings salvation, redemption from sin. In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter made the extraordinary statement that “there is no other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  

Jesus, the Son of God, in becoming man, entered human history as a member of the people of God, the people of Israel. According to the law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. By being circumcised, Jesus was incorporated into Abraham’s descendants, into the people of the covenant. This was God’s plan. He chose Israel to be His people centuries before Jesus was born. He chose this particular people and set them apart from other peoples and nations. Circumcision was the sign that Israel had been set apart from other people and nations for a particular purpose. Israel was the means by which God would reveal Himself to the world in an extraordinary way. How would He do so? By becoming an Israelite Himself. 

God sent His Son born of a woman, St. Paul writes. That woman chosen by God was a daughter of Israel. His earthly father was a son of Israel. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews and obeyed the law to have their son circumcised. Jesus was born under the law. As we heard in the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the