Monday, January 01, 2007

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New Year’s Day)
Of Sons and Mothers

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

My dear sisters and brothers, today is the first day of the New Year 2007. It is also the eighth and last day of the Christmas octave – the day, as we are told in the gospel, when the babe in the manger receives his name: Jesus, or Yehoshua, God Saves. And together with the universal Church we also celebrate another occasion of naming. We remember Mary, the Blessed Virgin, under her title of Mother of God. New Year, Christmas and Mother of God – what possible connection do these celebrations have with one another?

We begin our meditation by considering the New Year. What did you do last night? What were your feelings as the countdown proceeded? Many people were probably happily and boisterously partying the night away. At the same time, there may also have been those who spent the night alone at home feeling depressed. And then there were probably many others in between: those who spent some time in quiet reflection and prayer; those who had a pleasant evening celebrating with friends and family; and perhaps even those who were quite indifferent to all the festivities and simply went to bed.

Whatever the activities might have been, however, it is likely that many experienced, with varying levels of awareness, two contrasting feelings. There was probably fervent hope that the New Year might indeed bring something new, something better: perhaps a more lucrative job, a more peaceful family, a newer cell-phone, a slimmer figure, a less violent world, a holier life... And yet, along with hope there was probably also not a little anxiety and doubt. Is something new really possible? We may have asked ourselves, Or are we doomed to keep repeating the same old thing? For example, although Saddam Hussein may already have been executed, people are still being killed in Iraq. And, after all, doesn’t even the bible tell us that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)?

It is in the midst of these conflicting feelings of hope and doubt that our gospel invites us to continue gazing upon the babe in the manger, the same infant that shepherds and magi come to visit on Christmas night. For in this innocent face we see God’s merciful and gracious answer to the great prayer of blessing that Moses is taught to pray in the first reading today. In this baby, God has given us the most precious gift that can be given. In this baby, God has quite literally uncovered his face to his people. In this helpless child God has become one of us, so that although the wheels of time may seem to keep turning endlessly and tediously from moment to moment and from year to year with apparently nothing really new happening – although our families and our world, our jobs and our waistlines may seem to remain the same – in the face of this baby, the Christian does indeed see something new. For it is as the second reading proclaims to us today: the appointed time has come, God has sent his Son born of a woman. In this child God and humanity have been made one.

And with the coming of God into our world, something new happens to us as well. We too assume a new identity. Even as we celebrate the new name given to this child – Jesus, God Saves – and even as we celebrate the naming of his mother – Mother of God – we also celebrate our own naming. For, as Paul reminds us in the second reading, because this child is named Jesus, because he is God’s true and only begotten Son, in him, we too become adopted daughters and sons of the living God. Whatever our situations in life, whatever the trials we may continue to undergo, whatever the difficulties we may continue to struggle with, in Christ, we are already heirs of God’s glorious kingdom. If we but remain in him, there is a great treasure, an indescribable joy awaiting us. And it is in this, above all else, that we place our hope. This is the newness we celebrate: our identity and dignity as heirs of the living God.

As if this were not enough, there’s even more. As baptized Christians, together with Mary, each of us is given yet another very special name. For although Mary is uniquely the Mother of God, each one of us, whether woman or man, also shares in her great title. Each of us is called to be a God-bearer in our own little corner of the world. Like the shepherds of today’s gospel, after these days spent gazing in wonder and awe at the face of God in the manger, each of us is called to go back to our respective homes and workplaces glorifying and praising God. As we receive this great blessing of God in his only begotten Son, each of us is called to be, in our turn, a blessing to others. As we experience the newness that the savior brings to our lives, we are also called to join our efforts to God’s continuing work of making all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5).

Sisters and brothers, as we walk together with hearts full of hope into the year 2007, how might we better live up to our dignity as heirs and bearers, as sons and mothers, of God to a waiting world?

I wish you all a most joyous, blessed and peaceful New Year!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Chris:

    I was there to hear this homily preached and went away the better for it :)

    I think I count myself among the thousands, maybe millions, who look to each new year with, like you say, a mixture of hope and doubt. Those to whom life has dealt a lousy deck of cards would even look to it with trepidation, but for most of us, the new year cannot be all bad.

    I look forward to 2007 with hope, hope that the things that I work for (as against wish for)will come to fruition because that is my just reward as though it was my birth-right. But life has its ways of springing surprises on us - and we can be let down and begin to doubt.

    But an irrevocable change has come upon humanity with the birth of the Infant King. Humanity is now divine because the Divine chose to not only identify with the created, She became a creature Herself. How much closer can one hope for God to be? I often lose sight of this when the hope that I spoke about earlier dissolves into doubt. Yes, we all have a new identity. We only need to live up to that identity and leave the rest to God.

    A slimmer figure is NOT on my agenda but I do hope to be able to see my toes when standing upright :)

    Happy new year!