Holy Mary, Mother of Unity
January 23, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today, we celebrate the Mass of Holy Mary, Mother of Unity. As we observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we invoke Our Blessed Mother with the title “Mother of Unity,” asking her to obtain the gift of unity for those who believe in Christ. With Mary, we pray for the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, “that they all may be one” (Jn 17:21). With Mary, we can learn how to unify our lives. She teaches how to center our personal lives and the life of the society in God, who is the fountain of all unity.
The Second Vatican Council entrusted the unity of Christians to Mary with these words: “The entire body of the faithful pours forth urgent supplications to the Mother of God and of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints” (Lumen Gentium 69).
We have a great need for unity now. In 1997, during a general audience, Saint John Paul II said: “The peace, harmony and unity for which the Church and humanity hope still seem far away. Nevertheless, they are a gift of the Spirit to be constantly sought, as we learn from Mary and trust in her intercession” (John Paul II, General Audience, November 12, 1997).
Unity comes from above. In today’s collect prayer, we call God the Father the “fountain of unity and wellspring of harmony.” God himself is unity. The Holy Trinity is the unity of three different persons.
The order of the universe reveals the unity and harmony of God. However, division entered the world with original sin. Nevertheless, God has a plan to unify all things in Christ. His death and resurrection return all creatures to the original harmony. The Paschal Mystery has conquered Satan’s power of division. During the general audience last Wednesday, Pope Francis declared: “To pray means to fight for unity. Yes, fight, because our enemy, the devil, is the one who divides, as the word itself says. Jesus asks the Holy Spirit for unity, to create unity. The devil always divides. He always divides because it is convenient for him to divide. He fosters division everywhere and in any way, while the Holy Spirit always joins in unity” (Francis, General Audience, January 20, 2021).
The unity and harmony of God are mirrored in the oneness of Mary’s heart. She perceived herself and all things as coming from God’s hands. Christ was the center of her life. In her virginal womb, divine and human nature were united. Her heart was always filled with a deep sense of unity. All things were unified in her son Jesus. As St. Paul says, “He [Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Mary’s faith allowed her to see her life, the life of her people, and the whole world in a harmonic movement toward fulfillment. In Christ, all things return to the Father: “I came from the Father into the world, but I am leaving the world and returning to the Father” (Jn 16:28).
Today’s first reading invites us to recognize that the Lord is present among us: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no misfortune to fear […] The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior” (Zeph 3:16–17). As we recognize Christ’s presence, we become builders of unity because his gentle presence unifies all things. He is the center where everything converges.
As human beings, we are divided because of sin. However, God has the power to overcome all disunity. The prophet Zephaniah says: “At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you” (Zeph 3:20). To build unity is primarily God’s action, as today’s psalm says: “He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock” (Jer 31:10).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus expresses his deep desire for us to become one: “I pray not only for my disciples, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). After returning to the Father, Jesus sent the Spirit of concord and unity, of peace and forgiveness upon the Blessed Virgin and the Apostles.
On this memorial of Holy Mary, Mother of Unity, we ask God to pour out the Spirit of gentleness and peace upon us, that we may work together in harmony and hasten the coming of the kingdom. Amen.