Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Some of you may remember Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the song with the refrain “I dug sixteen tons and what’d I get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” At the beginning of a new year, there’s no doubt that we’re a year older than we were last year at this time. And indeed, some of us are deeper in debt or struggling harder to make ends meet.
Entrance Antiphon: “Hail, Holy Mother, who gave birth to the King who rules heaven and earth for ever.”
First Reading: Num 6:22-27 — “They shall invoke My name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 — “May God bless us in His mercy.”
Second Reading: Gal 4:4-7 — “God sent His Son, born of a woman.”
Alleluia: Heb 1:1-2 — Alleluia, alleluia. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son.” Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Lk 2:16-21 — “They found Mary and Joseph and the infant. When the eight days were completed, He was named Jesus.”
Communion Antiphon: Heb 13:8 — “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Politicians like to ask, “Are you better off than you were two years, four years, or even eight years ago?” As we are just in the beginning phases of what will appear to be a contentious election and in anticipation of a new president taking office shortly thereafter, perhaps, it’s a good question for us to consider at the start of a new year. And I don’t mean to make this a political statement … I’m just saying that’s a tactic or a ploy many politicians use when campaigning. What I am saying is that such an assessment will be affected by a variety of factors: our financial status, our health and the health of family and friends, the number of friends and the happy times we’ve had or are having … just to give a few.
We are told that Mary “treasured” and “reflected on” the events that demonstrated the actions of God in her life. The beginning of a new year is a perfect time for us to do the same. Despite the difficulties and challenges in our lives, we can and should focus on the good things that have happened in our lives. Perhaps it is a new job? How about a new friendship or other relationship? Maybe a marriage? How about a new child or grandchild? Perhaps it’s a new house, neighborhood, or town? Better health? A deeper sense of God’s presence in our lives? When you think about it, all of these are events or circumstances that we can treasure and on which we can reflect as we begin a new year.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Whether we’re looking back, looking ahead, or looking at where we are now, the most important elements in our lives are relationships with others and our relationship with God.
When we call on the name of the Lord, God will bless us. As we read the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament, God has brought His people safely to the Promised Land. When they do finally enter the land promised to their forefathers, the presence of Aaron, his sons and the tribe of Levi reminds the community that God is in their midst. God told Moses how Aaron and his sons should bless the Israelites. The prayer of blessing is a wish that the Lord look kindly on His people and give them peace. God has promised to bless the Israelites when approached with such a prayer of blessing. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.”
Throughout his letters, but particularly in his letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul assures us that, thanks to the birth of the Christ child, we are God’s children. God’s Son was “born of a woman,” meaning He was and remains one of us. God’s Son was “born under the law” to free us from the restraints of the law. God has sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts so we may call out to Him with the affectionate term “Abba.” Therefore, humans are no longer slaves but children and heirs of God.
Those who saw the child in Bethlehem began to understand the plan of God. The shepherds hurried to see what the angels had described. The shepherds saw the child in the manger and began to understand what they had been told. The shepherds reported what they had been told, causing all who were present to be amazed. Mary treasured the events of the birth of Jesus and reflected on them. The baby was circumcised according to Jewish custom and given the name “Jesus.”
The divine plan is at work in our lives as it was in the lives of the child Jesus and His family. God speaks to us in ways that we may not understand. God challenges us to go forward in faith as He challenged the Israelites to do on their quest for the Promised Land. We are called into a relationship closer than that of the people of Israel and those who knew Jesus during His earthly life. We should all know that whatever God may ask of us, we will always have a tender Parent and a Brother who is strong and wise to assist us and be there for us. Along with Mary, we need to ponder the event that took place in a stable long ago and to evoke a little wonder at the generous love our God has lavished on us.
As we begin a New Year, we have an opportunity to reflect on our lives as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did during the wondrous events of His birth. Our celebration of the Eucharist allows us to welcome Christ into our lives today and for the rest of eternity. God’s Son takes on human flesh again and again, every time we approach this table. Just think. Every time we come here to celebrate, Jesus becomes incarnate in our very own flesh. Doesn’t that give you reason enough to pause, to wonder, to celebrate, and to treasure these events in your hearts as Mary did? Happy New Year!