Sunday, January 1, 2017

Homily for January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Merry Christmas!  Yes indeed, I did say Merry Christmas everybody!  As we usher in another New Year we are still celebrating Christmas, all the way this year until the Baptism of the Lord on Monday, January 9th.  I am willing to bet that if we want to go somewhere in the world today and hear a Christmas Carol or two, then we are in the right place, the Holy Catholic Church!  So again, Merry Christmas!
Of course it is New Year's Day so  I was thinking about resolutions.  I resolve right here and now to make no New Year's resolution.  Yes, with age comes wisdom!  Studies tell us that over 80% of all resolutions for the New Year fail and they fail, on average, by January 20th!  Ouch!  While I make no resolutions, I do eat my New Year special meal of black-eyed peas, cabbage, corn bread and pork.  It's supposed to bring good health and good wealth; well, maybe this year, huh? 

As people of faith we all know one thing we can resolve to do, to follow the perfect will of God the Father, with Mother Mary as our most excellent example!

So the Church tells us that we set aside New Year's Day, the Octave Day of Christmas, to honor Mary under the title of Mother of God.  Coincidentally, January 1st is also the celebration of World Day for Peace.  Back to this title for Mary as Mother of God.  Many of my non-Catholic friends, Christians of one faith tradition or another, struggle with this title for Mary, they think, rather incorrectly, that we are stating that Mary preexisted the Creator, even though Mary is a creature.  Of course she is a very special creature, reserved from all women in every age and generation to be the mother of Jesus.  I explain to my friends that Mary, Mother of God, says far more about Jesus, God the Son, than it does Mary.  We know that the Church resolved many centuries ago the controversial debate about Jesus having two natures so Mary could only give birth to the humanity of Jesus.  In a grand Council, in a town called Ephesus, the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, defined for all time that Jesus is fully human, fully divine.  Jesus is God, the 2nd person of the Most Holy Trinity, therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.  We honor her with this title as we worship her Son, Mary's Savior and ours too!  Mary was given an ancient Greek title, and it was not Christokos, the bearer of Christ, but rather the Church declared Theotokos, the bearer of God!

So, on this New Year's Day it is completely and entirely fitting that we celebrate Mary as Mother of God.  We read the Gospel story of the shepherds visiting the Holy Family at the manger scene in Bethlehem.  The shepherds go forth and make known the message they received from the angel, as a forerunner of you and I going forth to make known the saving power of Christ in our lives! 

So perhaps we have stumbled upon a couple of resolutions that are inspired by God's perfect plan.  Like Mary, we can resolve to say yes to the Lord, to completely trust in Him, to take the time to ponder what God is asking of us in following His perfect will.  And then, like the shepherds, we can resolve to go forth from this place, today and everyday we attend Mass, and spread the message that Jesus, born of Mary, fully human, fully divine, came as a humble baby to save us.  These are two resolutions we all can commit ourselves to and with God's grace, follow through to completion, well beyond January 20th!!

As a prayer example to help us on this journey may I recommend Mary's own words from Scripture: I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to thy word.  And then with Mary, perhaps we can pray the words of her own Magnificat:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant
From this day all generations will call me blessed, the Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation
He has shown the strength of his arm; He has scattered the proud in their conceit. 
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly, He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and His children forever.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

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