Saturday, May 8, 2021

 

EASTER VI:  Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; I Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15: 9-17

In 1941, the German Army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, the lives of at least 250 Jews were spared. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942. It took Germany almost sixty years to honour the memory of this man, Schmid. Said Germany's Defence Minister in 2000, saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist."

This is the central theme of today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers. 

 We are chosen to be the ambassadors of God's love. But, we live in a world that encourages everything but love. Children are taught to compete with one another. Parents encourage them to defeat their friends by getting at least one mark more, by submitting one project extra, and so on. In our frantic attempt to gain popularity as the first, we ignore the sublime values of love and sacrifice.

Jesus laid down his life and taught: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." This sacrificial love was imitated by many great men, like Schmid, Maximilian Colbe, and the noble martyrs.

Jesus gives the assurance that "Love will always bear fruit." At times it may appear to us that to do good to certain people is waste of time; people are often ungrateful, and on occasions those to whom we have done good turn against us. But, we should not get discouraged; because we do not know when, how and where love will bear fruit. It is the assurance of Jesus that "Love will bear fruit." The love that Jesus bestowed on his disciples bore fruit; they travelled to the ends of the then known world announcing the love of God, and doing good to the people. It bore fruit in the life of Schmid. It bore fruit in the life of Mother Theresa. It bears fruit in our lives.

May God help us in our attempt to show his love to our brothers in small little ways.




Today we have the relic of St. Joseph here. The Church believes the power of intercession of St.Joseph in the lives of a Christian. It is reasonable to think that if Jesus grew up with St. Joseph and he called him father and if Joseph provided Jesus with everything he needed as a boy, then, if St.Joseph asks him for something, surely we can reasonably imagine that Jesus would hear the prayers of St.Joseph than anybody else except Mary.

Several saints like St. Teresa of Ávila to St. Gertrude to St. Faustina were blessed by St.Joseph’s appearances and intercession.  

In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Ávila said he appeared to her when she was having trouble establishing a particular convent. She wrote in her autobiography, “Once, when I was in a difficulty and could not think what to do, or how I was going to pay some workmen, Saint Joseph, my true father and lord, appeared to me and gave me to understand that money would not be lacking and I must make all the necessary arrangements.

 

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks.

After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

Engineers still marvel at this carpenters accomplishment. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. It is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood (Not found anywhere around in the state)  and other materials used in the stairway's construction.

Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. I myself have been there to see that about 10 years ago. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including "Unsolved Mysteries" and the full-length movie titled the staircase. I watched on youtube.

 

Just as St.Joseph took care of the Holy Family many years ago, St. Joseph will continue to take care of the temporal and spiritual needs of his children here on earth; he will continue to intercede for us before our Lord.

In 2005 Pope Benedict XVI said, “To St. Joseph’s intercession I entrust the hopes of the Church and of the world. May he, together with the Virgin Mary, his spouse, always guide my way and yours, so that we are able to be joyful instruments of peace and of salvation.” 

At the close of the Mass we will say the litany to St. Joseph.

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

 

LENT V [B]: Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

Several years ago Catherine Marshall wrote an article called “When We Dare to Trust God”. She told how she had been bed-bound for six months with a serious lung infection. No amount of medication or prayer helped. She was terribly depressed. One day someone gave her a pamphlet about a woman missionary who had contracted a strange disease. The missionary had been sick for eight years and couldn’t understand why God let this tragedy happen to her. Daily she prayed for health to resume her work. But her prayers were unanswered. One day, in desperation, she cried out to God: “All right I give up. If You want me to be an invalid, that’s Your business!” Within two weeks that missionary was fully recovered. Catherine Marshall was puzzled by that strange story. It didn’t make sense. “Yet” she said, “I couldn’t forget that story.” Then one morning Catherine cried out to God: “God I’m tired of asking you for health. You decide if You want me sick or healthy.” At that moment, Catherine said later, her health began to return. — The story of that missionary woman and the story of Catherine Marshall illustrate what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. “Unless a grain of wheat dies, it cannot bear fruit.” Or to put it another way, unless we die to our own will, we cannot bear fruit for God.

 

During his public ministry, Jesus had made it clear that one condition for being his follower was bearing the cross. "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me" (Lk 9:23). As his passion draws near, he energetically reiterates this same condition: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."

To be a Christian is to be where Christ is: "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be." And where is Christ? He is always pouring out his life for others on the cross, giving himself for the good of others through self-forgetful love. The Eucharist is the extension throughout history of Christ's self-sacrifice on Calvary. And so, that's also where we should be: giving our lives for God and our neighbors.

Christ's great commandment was to love others as he has loved us. He taught this lesson by example on the cross, and with words during the Last Supper: "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). St Paul learned this lesson well; he was always talking about the cross. He wrote to the Corinthians: "...the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ" (1 Cor 2:2). As followers of Christ, we should expect crosses, difficulties, and even, at times, persecution.

To be a true Christian involves not just wearing a crucifix or hanging one on the wall, but bearing the sign of the cross in the very marrow of our lives. All Christians bear the sign of the cross on their souls, even before they experience persecution and suffering in their life. Our souls are actually sealed, stamped, with the sign of Christ in two sacraments that we all receive: baptism and confirmation.

Even if a baptized and confirmed Christian rejects his friendship with Christ later on, dies without repenting, and ends up in hell, he will still bear the seals of baptism and confirmation on his soul. The demons will be able to recognize that he had been a Christian.

In ancient Rome, the soldiers of the Emperor used to receive a permanent, tattoo-like mark on their shoulder.  It was a sign of their special identity and mission - Roman soldiers, even after their time of service was finished, retained many privileges and responsibilities in the Empire. They also carried a special lead seal around their neck, which was used as a kind of passport throughout their travels. When we were baptized, we were marked in our very soul with the sign of Christ - he became our Lord, protector, and Savior, snatching us out of Satan's grasp.

And then, when the bishop made the sign of the cross on our forehead with the sacred chrism at confirmation, we were sealed as Christ's soldiers, with all the privileges and responsibilities that entails. Whether or not we believe in Christ, we will still have to bear crosses.

Life in a fallen world is full of crosses, no matter what. No one is an exception when it comes to suffering and struggling in life. But as Catholics, members of Christ's mystical body, we can find meaning in these crosses. The trick to doing that is to carry them with Christ, instead of trying to carry them alone. The cross that Jesus carried wasn't really his cross. He had never sinned, never had a selfish thought or performed an evil act. The cross that he carried, the sin that he atoned for, was ours. And this is our comfort: we are never alone. In the midst of life's joys, Jesus is at our side. And in the midst of life's crosses, Jesus is also at our side. The cross becomes unbearable and unfruitful only when we forget this. So, the key question is: How can we remember?  How can we avoid the deep frustration and sadness that come from trying to carry our crosses alone? We must become men and women of prayer. Prayer must become as important for our souls as breathing is for our bodies. There is no other way.

Jesus is with us now, because we are gathered in his name. And through the Eucharist he is about to come among us in an even deeper way. As he does, let's pray as the Greek visitors in the gospel prayed: "Father, we would like to see Jesus, so that we never have to carry our crosses alone.

Friday, February 26, 2021

 

LENT II Gen 22: 1-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mk 9: 2-10

A man and a woman had a little daughter. They lived for her. They were shocked when they discovered that she became chronically ill and her illness resisted the efforts of the best doctors, they became totally discouraged and inconsolable.

Soon she passed away. The parents were completely distressed, and they shut themselves off from their family and friends. But, one night the woman had a dream that she was in heaven. There she saw a long procession of little children processing like little angels before the throne of God. Every child was dressed in a dazzling white robe and they each held a lit candle. However, when the woman saw her daughter, she noticed that her candle was not lit.

The mother ran up to her, embraced her, and then asked her how it was that her candle was the only one that was not lit. She said, “Mother, they often relight it, but your tears always put it out.”

Just at that moment the woman woke from her dream. They decided to embrace their loss with Christian hope and that they would no longer extinguish their daughter’s little candle with their useless tears.

The gospel account of the transfiguration of Jesus tells us that our sufferings will lead to the transformation of our lives. Jesus takes his closest disciples up the mountain, alone, to give them an insight into who he is and prepare them for the trials to come.

If the Lord subjected Abraham to a trial, Our Lord takes his closest disciples up the mountain to prepare them for an upcoming trial: his Passion and death.

Our Lord gives his disciples a glimpse of his divinity. They’ve followed him and had faith in him, and now he gives them a deeper insight into who he truly is and to strengthen their faith. Elijah and Moses, through their appearance, show the disciples that Our Lord is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.

Transfiguration established Jesus’ glorious identity as the beloved Son of God, and placed his divine Son-ship in the context of Jewish expectations about the kingdom and the resurrection. While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of heavenly glory. This reminds us of Moses and Elijah who also experienced the Lord in all His glory. Moses had met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Ex 3:1-4). After his encounter with God, Moses' face shone so brightly that the people were frightened, and Moses had to wear a veil over his face (Ex 34:29-35).

Luke mentions the topic of the conversation of Jesus with Moses and Elijah: they talked about the suffering Jesus was about to undergo in Jerusalem. Then the voice of the father was heard “This is my beloved son; Listen to him”. Assured of his Father’s love, Jesus was determined to carry out his Father’s plans to save the world.

Like Jesus, we are also assured of the Father’s love in our sufferings. Our sufferings are designed to strengthen us. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” says Helen Keller. Every challenge, every difficulty, every moment of suffering, is an opportunity for transformation and spiritual growth.


Jesus’ real transfiguration took place on His resurrection after his passion and death. When we suffer by standing with the underprivileged; when we accept suffering for the sake of justice; when we accept suffering for the sake of a co-worker who is not able to defend himself or herself; or when we accept suffering to build a strong family, we are preparing our way for our final glorification.

The main purpose of today’s readings is to give us an invitation as well as a challenge to put our Faith in the loving promises of a merciful God Who sent His Son to die for us and to transform our lives by renewing them during Lent. Our transformed lives will enable us to radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives.

The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow him to consult his Heavenly Father and ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death and Resurrection.  Secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of Jesus’ Divine glory so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trial.  

Just as Jesus’ Transfiguration strengthened the apostles in their time of trial, each holy Mass should be our source of heavenly strength against temptations, and our renewal during Lent. In addition, our holy Communion with the living Jesus should be the source of our daily “transfiguration,” transforming our minds and hearts so that we may do more good by humble and selfless service to others. May the Lord strengthen us to renounce our sins and transform us to a holy life.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

 

OT III [B]Jon. 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Mk. 1:14-20

 

Billy Graham was in a certain town years ago, and he wanted to mail a letter, but he had no idea where the Post Office was. So he stopped a little boy walking the street and asked him if he could direct him to the nearest Post Office. Well, the little boy said, “Yes sir, go down to the red light, turn right, go two blocks to the second red light, turn left, go one block, turn back to the right and you will be right there.” Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “Son, if you will come to the Convention Center this evening, you can hear me telling everybody how to get to Heaven.” The boy said, “Well, I don’t think I’ll be there, Mister; you don’t even know your way to the Post Office.”

The very first command Jesus ever gave to any disciple was: “Follow Me.” For that is where discipleship begins and ends, in following Jesus. Because he knows and he is the way to the Father/heaven.

Jesus didn’t say, “Come and fish with me.” He said “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Following Jesus is true discipleship.

In the ancient world fishing was a metaphor for two distinct activities: judgment and teaching.  “Fishing for people” meant bringing them to justice by dragging them out of their hiding places and setting them before the judge. And “fishing” was also used of teaching people, of the process of leading them from ignorance to wisdom. Both cases involve a radical change of environment, a break with a former way of life and entrance upon a new way of life.

 

No matter to what life, work, or ministry God calls us, He first calls us to conversion, to reform, to repentance – to the process of continually becoming new people. The mark of genuine repentance is not a sense of guilt, but a sense of sorrow, of regret for having taken a wrong turn. For Jesus, repentance is not merely saying, “I’m sorry,” but also promising, “I will change my life.” Real repentance means that a man has come, not only to be sorry for the consequences of his sin, but to hate sin itself. We often think of repentance as feeling guilty, but it is really a change of mind or direction — seeing things from a different perspective. Once we begin to see things rightly, it might follow that we will feel bad about having seen them wrongly for so long. But repentance starts with the new vision rather than the guilt feelings. By true repentance we are giving up control of our lives and throwing our sinful lives on the mercy of God.  We are inviting God to do what we can’t do ourselves — namely to raise the dead — to change and recreate us.  The word “Repent” is used in the present tense — “Keep on repenting!”  “Continually be repentant!”  This means that repentance must be the ongoing life of the people in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is the theme of Jesus’ preaching. This Kingdom is any society where God’s will is done as it is done in Heaven. Hence, a person who does the will of God perfectly is already in the Kingdom of God. Being in the Kingdom offers us a new healing and freeing access to God, already to be tasted in Jesus’ own ministry. Matthew, as a devout Jew, consistently uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven,” while Mark, writing for Gentile converts, uses the phrase “Kingdom of God,” without any scruples about using God’s name. We probably shouldn’t interpret the “Kingdom of God” as Heaven where God rules.   In telling us that the Kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this Kingdom now, provided we repent or turn away from the idols that crowd our lives and do the will of God as it is done in Heaven, thus allowing God to reign in our lives.

A Russian youth who had become a conscientious objector to war, through reading of Tolstoy and the New Testament, was brought before a magistrate. With the strength of conviction he told the judge that he believed in a life which loves its enemies, which overcomes evil and which refuses war. “Yes,” said the judge, “I understand. But you must be realistic. These laws you are talking about are the laws of the Kingdom of God, and it has not come yet.” The young man straightened and said, “Sir, I recognize it has not come for you, nor yet for Russia or the world. But the Kingdom of God has come for me! I can’t go on hating and killing as though it had not come.”

In a way, the Russian youth summed up what we believe about the Kingdom of God. –How soon will the plan of God for his Kingdom be realised? It depends much on how earnest we are to be on God’s side and cooperate with his plan.

Let us be shining lights in the world as Christ was and make a personal effort to bring others to the truth and the light, so that they may rejoice with us in the Mystical Body of Christ, the invisible Kingdom of God.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

 

Baptism of the Lord [B]  (Is 55:1-11; 1 Jn 5:1-9; Mk 1:7-11)

The Christmas season comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Jesus’ baptism is an event described by all four Gospels, and it marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Jesus’ baptism by John was the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God’s suffering Servant.  He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners.   Baptism marked the end of Jesus' private life, which had prepared him for his public ministry.  It was a moment of identification with his people in their God-ward movement initiated by John the Baptist.  It was also a moment of approval. Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, and during his baptism Jesus got this approval of himself as the Father's "beloved Son."  Furthermore, it was a moment of conviction.  At this baptism, Jesus received certainties (assurances) from Heaven about his identity and the nature of his mission: He was the "Chosen One" and the "beloved Son of God".

 

Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments" (CCC, #1213).

Jesus wasn't affected by original sin. So if Jesus didn't need a spiritual rebirth, if he was already in perfect communion with the Father, why did he get baptized? It was for our sake: he wanted to reveal his strategy for redeeming the world: entering so fully into the human condition, that he could take upon himself the weight of all our sins, so that we could be freed from them and have a new start, a new hope, a new life.

French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other men, "Listen, Dominic, you've led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death." The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God's will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We see things differently than we did before. We see other people differently than we did before. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because He was baptized. And we are able to love as he loved. Such identification is life-changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us.

The first amazing thing about baptism is that it elevates us from being merely part of God's creation to becoming God's adopted children. This is why part of the baptismal rite includes officially proclaiming the Christian name of the person who is to be baptized. The name indicates personal identity, and baptism increases our personal identity by making us members not only of our natural family, but also members of God's own, eternal and supernatural family. This really happens with baptism - it is not just a pretty ritual or a nice symbol: it really happens. We become Jesus’ dwelling places. This is one of the reasons why Christians are so careful to avoid sins that desecrate our bodies, like drugs and drunkenness, sexual sins, and self-inflicted violence or self-mutilation. Our bodies are temples of God; we should always treat them with respect.

 

Original sin separated the human race from God. Baptism is the sacrament by which the grace which Christ won for us on the cross first comes into our soul. By this, God reestablishes friendship with every human being, one person at a time. In a very real sense, every baptism is a miracle. But Christian life doesn't end with baptism - or with the party after the baptism - it only starts there. Once we have received this great gift, we have to take responsibility for it.

Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit, are in our soul through the sanctifying grace that we received in baptism. And it is our responsibility and opportunity to take advantage of that fact, to develop a deep and personal friendship with God throughout our lives. That's the only way we will be able to discover and fulfill our life mission.

Let us ask Our Lord today to make us faithful to our Baptismal promises.  Let us thank Him for the privilege of being joined to His mission of preaching the “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness.

 

 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

 

EPIPHANY: Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Next to Easter, Epiphany is the oldest season of the Church year. In Asia Minor and Egypt, Epiphany was observed as early as the second century. The Festival of the Epiphany fell (and still falls), on January 6. It was observed as a unitive festival -- both the birth and Baptism of Jesus were celebrated at this time. January 6 was chosen as Epiphany Day because it was the winter solstice, a pagan festival celebrating the birthday of the sun god. In 331 AD the solstice was moved to December 25, but January 6 continued to be observed. Christians substituted Epiphany for the solstice. The emphasis was upon the re-birth of light. In keeping with this time, the First Lesson for Epiphany Day is appropriate: "Arise, shine; for your light has come." The unitive Festival of Epiphany was divided when December 25 was chosen as the birthday of Jesus. The Church in the East continued to celebrate Epiphany in terms of the Baptism of Jesus while the Western church associated Epiphany with the visit of the Magi. For the East the Baptism of Jesus was more vital because of the Gnostic heresy claiming that only at his baptism did Jesus become the Son of God. On the other hand, to associate Epiphany with the Magi is appropriate, for the Magi might not have gotten to Bethlehem until a year after Jesus' birth. By this time the holy family was in a house rather than in a stable. If this was the case, then the Magi could not have been a part of the manger scene popularly portrayed in today's Christmas scenes and plays. The Vatican II lectionary and calendar combine the two by placing the visit of the Magi on Epiphany Day and the Baptism of Jesus on Epiphany 1 (The First Sunday after the Epiphany).  

The gifts that the Magi brought, Gold, frankincense and myrrh may be thought of as prophesying Jesus’ future; gold representing his kingship as well as divinity, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming.

Gold was a gift for Kings, accepting baby Jesus as the king of the Jews. Gold is also a symbol of Divinity and is mentioned throughout the Bible. Pagan idols were often made from gold and the Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold (Ex. 25:10-17). The gift of gold to the Christ Child was symbolic of His Divinity—God in flesh. Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Ex. 30:34). The gift of frankincense to the Christ Child was symbolic of his willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. Myrrh was used by the High Priest as an anointing oil (Ex. 30:23) Myrrh was used in ancient times for embalming the bodies of the dead before burial. It was a fitting “gift” for Jesus who was born to die. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Mt. 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Such a drink was given to our Savior when he was about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion (Mk 15:23). Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. In addition, myrrh  was used an oriental remedy for intestinal worms in infants, a useful gift for a new baby. These gifts were not only expensive but portable. 

 

The Epiphany can be looked on as a symbol for our pilgrimage through life to Christ.   The feast invites us to see ourselves as images of the Magi, a people on a journey to Christ.  We can see three kinds of reactions to Jesus’ birth:  hatred, indifference, and adoration: a) a group of people headed by Herod planned to destroy Jesus;  b) another group, composed of priests and scribes, ignored Jesus;  c) the members of a third group -- shepherds and the magi -- adored Jesus and offered themselves to Him.

 

We need to be like the third group, worshipping Jesus at Mass, every day if we can, with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration.  Like the Magi we need to plot a better course for our lives choosing for ourselves a better way of life in the New Year by abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behavior and sharing our love with others in acts of charity.    Let us become stars, leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Him.   We can remove or lessen the darkness of the evil around us by being, if not like stars, at least like candles, radiating Jesus’ love by selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

 

MARY MOTHER OF GOD

Num. 6:22-7; Gal. 4:4-7; Lk. 2:16-21

Welcome to today's celebration of the Feast of Mary. This Feast of "Mary, Mother of God" is very appropriate to start a new year. This celebration echoes that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother.

We base our faith in this dogma on the words of Elizabeth who was the cousin of Mary. When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth after the angel had appeared to her and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth said, "And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" [Lk. 1:43] Through Elizabeth who was full of the Holy Spirit, it was acclaimed that Mary had been chosen to be the Mother of God.

In the fourth century, a priest named Arius claimed that Jesus as the Son of God was created by God. This would mean that Jesus was an amazing creature, but not God, so it was a denial of his divinity. The idea took hold, and Arianism became popular in the Eastern and Western Roman empire. 

Opponents such as St. Athanasius, who was exiled multiple times for his belief, said that would be a return to polytheism, since Jesus in the Arianist view was not God, but was still worshipped alongside God the Father.

In 431 A.D. the Council of Ephesus affirmed that Mary was truly the Mother of God because "according to the flesh" she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God from the first moment of His conception. Twenty years later, in 451 A.D. at the Council of Chalcedon, it was affirmed that the Motherhood of Mary was a truthful dogma and an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. The Feast of the Mother of God affirms that Mary was the mother of Jesus who was both God and human. The Holy Scriptures teaches us through the Gospel of John that Jesus was both God and human. "The Word became flesh and lived among us." [Jn. 1:14]

Mary chose to be the mother of God, with her unconditional faith, submission and hope. When the Angel announced the news that she had been chosen to be the mother of God, her response was: “Behold, I am the hand maid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word."

She was well aware of the consequences of being found with a baby before marriage. She had witnessed the punishment given for infidelity. Still when the word of God made demands on her she did not think about the worries that "tomorrow" might bring. This is a great lesson for us. We, often, live in the worries of the future. Our life is engulfed by the regrets of the past and the unknown worries of the future. After all today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.  As we are setting foot to the New Year, our mother stands beside us, encouraging us to be optimistic in life.

In today's Gospel Mary teaches us one of the most important virtues of all: wisdom. St Luke tells us how Mary responded to the wonderful things that God was doing in and around her: "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."

Just as Mary's womb was open to receiving God's living Word at the moment of Christ's Incarnation, so her heart was constantly open to receiving God’s ongoing words and messages as He continued to speak through the events of her life. This capacity and habit of reflecting in our heart on God's action in our lives is both a sign and a source of wisdom. And we can never become mature, courageous, and joyful followers of Christ unless we develop it.

Mary was Jesus’ mother in the flesh, and she is our mother in grace. And just as we learn from our natural mothers how to be good human beings, so we learn from Mary how to become mature Christians. She is the living school where we learn every virtue that leads to happiness and holiness. Inspired by Mary’s example let’s strive to begin this new year as a year of a more profound love for Christ; in that way, it will indeed be a happy new year.

The year 2020 has not been without its challenges and its trials and yet in so many ways we can find the hand of God at work within each of us and within His Church.  There can be no growth without some growing pains, without some struggle, without some change. Even in dark days, our God never deserts us. He is present with his people. And he has unseen purposes that he is fulfilling through all this.

And now we look forward to a new year – another gift of our loving God – and we pray that it will be a fruitful year, a life-giving year, a grace-filled year!  We pray that it will bring us closer to our God and to each other as we work together for His glory by deepening our discipleship.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, wrap us safely in her mantle and bring us closer to her Son.