01 January. Mary the Holy Mother of God

A very Happy New Year to all our readers!

1st Reading: Numbers 6:22-27

A new-year prayer for God to bless and protect his people

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

‘The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’”

2nd Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

The distance between God and man has been bridged, so we can call God “Abba! Father”

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds visit the manger. Later, Jesus is circumcised and named

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


Honouring the Theotokos

At the Council of Ephesus (451), Mary, the mother of Jesus was proclaimed as Mother of God or Theotokos, acknowledging the very Godhead of her Son, Jesus Christ. Under this noble title she is still honoured by most Christians around the world, and today’s feast invites us to lay our hopes and plans for the new-starting year in her motherly care. We entrust to her our personal concerns and those of our era, with all its conflicts and glaring injustices, the unequal wealth and opportunity, the war in Syria and Iraq; in short, all that troubles peace and fairness in our world at this time.

In spite of everything, we start this new year of 2018 with high hopes, looking to God with a sense of wonder and trust. Somehow we can share in the spirit of Saint Peter on the mountainside, when he said “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Such wonder and gratitude was typical of Mary, our Mother in the faith, the first devoted believer in Jesus her son. But Mary was also a flesh-and-blood person of her times, a hard-working young woman from Nazareth, cheerful and willing to be of service to others. It is foolish to imagine her as a Christmas-card Madonna, serene and immobile against a golden background with hovering angels. Such an image is simply not true to her life-story as told in the Gospels. The real Mary of Nazareth knew neither riches nor a priveleged lifestyle. Nobody has ever lived, suffered and died in greater simplicity, marked by a strong and simple faith.

As she saw herself, Mary was the handmaid of the Lord, trusting in Providence and sustained by the goodness of God. Indeed, she stands out among the Lord’s anawim, the humble hearts who confidently trust that God has everything in hand (Lumen Gentium 55). In the first four Christian centuries, Church writers emphasised Mary’s faith rather than her divine motherhood. As St Augustine put it, “She conceived Jesus in her heart before conceiving him in her womb.” Also venerated as Mother of Good Counsel, Our Lady can be our guide and counsellor in the area of faith. She wants to beget faith in us, to be our Mother in faith. That is why, in the gospel of John, she is present at the beginning and the end of Christ’s public life.

John is the only evangelist to record Mary’s presence at Calvary, by tersely stating, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his Mother” (Jn 19:25). Although the miracles and message of Jesus seemed a delusion to many, his mother stood there faithful to him to his last breath, still believing in God’s power to save. Her faith was not built upon his miracles, but upon childlike trust in the mysterious ways of God our Father. Nor did her role as mother cease then, for with his dying words Jesus gave it a new focus with the instruction: “Behold your son….. Behold your mother.” The mother of Jesus will henceforth be mother to all his disciples, sharing with us her strong and simple faith.

Treasuring in the Heart

Today’s feast shows us Mary, our Blessed Lady, as marvelling at what has happened in her life, treasuring the events of Christmas, and pondering them in her heart. She is the iconic contemplative woman who ponders what the Almighty has done for her — and for all the people. She reflects what the shepherds said to her. Those simple, humble shepherds poured out their hearts to her, repeating what they heard from on high, “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” It is this good news, this gospel, that she treasured and pondered in her heart.

The same gospel has been passed on to us, and we are invited to treasure it, to ponder and respond to it, as Mary did. Today, New Year’s day, is a day when many feel drawn to make good resolutions. What better new year’s resolution could we make today than that of adopting Mary’s receptive, responsive turning of the heart towards God? We are invited to share in Mary’s sense of awe and wonder before God’s merciful love, made known to us in her son Jesus Christ. As we look forward into this new year beginning today, we ask Mary to help us to treasure God’s word as she did, so that we in turn may share Christ with others as Mary did.

Mary’a sense of “Today”

(José Antonio Pagola)

Luke concludes his story of Jesus’ birth indicating to his readers that «Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart». She didn’t keep what happened as a mere remembrance of the past, but as an experience that she will actualize and renew throughout her life. That’s not a gratuitous observation. Mary is a model of faith. According to the Gospel writer, to believe in Jesus the Saviour isn’t to merely remember what happened in other times, but to experience today their saving power, capable of making our lives more human.

That’s why Luke uses a very original literary technique. Jesus doesn’t belong to the past. Luke intentionally repeats that the salvation of the Risen Jesus is being offered to us today, right now, whenever we meet him. Let’s look at some examples. This is how Jesus’ birth is told to us: «Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you». Today Jesus can be born for us. Today he can enter into our life and change it forever. Right now we can be born with him to a new existence.

In a village of Galilee they bring a paralytic before Jesus. Jesus is moved when he sees him dragged down by his sin and he heals him, offering him forgiveness: «Your sins are forgiven». The people react praising God: «Today we have seen great things». We too can experience forgiveness, God’s peace, and the inner joy today if we let ourselves be healed by Jesus.

In the city of Jericho, Jesus stays in Zacchaeus’ house, a rich and powerful tax-collector. The meeting with Jesus transforms him: he will return what he stole to many people and share his goods with the poor. Jesus tells him: «Today salvation has come to this house». If we let Jesus into our lives, this very day we can start a life of more dignity, more fraternity, more solidarity.

Jesus suffered on the cross between two criminals. One of them entrusts himself to Jesus: «Remember me when you come into your kingdom». Jesus reacts immediately: «Today you will be with me in paradise». Just so, the day of our death will be a day of salvation. Finally we will hear from Jesus those long awaited words: «Rest, trust me, today you will be with me forever».

Today we start a new year. But can it be for us something truly new and good? Who is able to bring to birth in us a new joy? What psychologist will teach us to be more human? Little do our good intentions count. What’s decisive is to be more attentive to the good that Jesus awakens in us, the salvation we are offered each day. We don’t need to wait for anything other helps. This very day can be for me a day of salvation.

One Comment

  1. Phil Greene says:

    A very Happy New Year to everyone, good health and happiness to one and all ?
    After all the many interesting, open conversations, prayers and ponderings I thought about what my prayers would be for all of us together as Church this year and ponder ever so fancifully about how many might be ticked off the list before the year is out. !
    For Women in the Church – that the Church may mature into adulthood,- treating women as equals – and allow them to say “Yes” as Mary did, to their respective callings.
    For married priests and their partners – that the Church may mature into adulthood – and embrace the sacredness of the relationship between 2 people rather than intruding upon their union.
    For Priests – that the Church may mature into adulthood – and allow clergy to make an adult choice, marry or stay single.
    For the Institution of Church – that it may mature into adulthood – taking ownership of its failures and at the same time, show itself willing to move forward towards authentic healing and support.
    For Lay people – that we may allow our Church to mature into adulthood – As Bishop Long concluded recently, “that (the) model of the exalted, separated and elitist priesthood is drawing its last breaths .. let’s make room for the new model “the church (that) is not the church of the ordained but of all the baptized.”

    Thank you all too, my eyes have been opened and I have learned so much from both clergy and lay alike… God Bless.

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