The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God — January 1, 2015 — New Year’s “Realizations”
The celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, helps us to prepare for the beginning of a new year, by showering us with images of peace and joy. In the first reading, taken from the Old Testament Book of Numbers, we are told that the Lord’s face shines upon us, giving us peace. St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we are not slaves, but sons and daughters of God. And in St. Luke’s Gospel we see that classic picture of joy and tranquility: the shepherds coming to Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph, and the Baby Jesus lying in the manager. And once they saw, St. Luke tells us, the shepherds understood what had been told them concerning Jesus.
Today we pray that more of this peace and serenity, more of this calm and joy, might come into our lives and into our world during the New Year.
The Scripture readings are certainly very positive today, reinforcing us rather than discouraging us. But as we look forward to 2015, we can easily become discouraged. Likewise, we might become discouraged if we were to stress all of our faults and failings during the past year. In many and varied ways, we have all made mistakes in 2014, and perhaps we will do the same in 2015, but that is not the theme of our celebration the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Instead of warning us that we have to be better in the future, the Church reassures us. Instead of denouncing us all as sinners, the Church encourages us. Instead of frightening us, the Church tells us of peace and joy. Instead of telling us how evil we are, the Church tells us that we are not slaves, but sons and daughters of God. Rather than presenting a picture of the punishment that our sins deserve, the Church lays out before us the picturesque scene of shepherds visiting the manger and understanding what they had been told about Jesus!
At this annual time of New Year’s Resolutions, the Church doesn’t focus our attention so much on our faults and failings that need correction, as on our faith that gives meaning to our lives and hope to our future.
Today the Church challenges us to look forward to the opportunities that await us in the future. We should not look back to the failures and frustrations of the past, nor remember how sad and miserable we might have been, but rejoice in our dignity and our potential as Christians and as Catholics.
The Church prepares us to begin the New Year by making a noble effort to help us feel good about ourselves, to build up an optimistic self-confidence and hopefulness. The past is over and done with. The mistakes that we might have made are all behind us, and once forgiven they can be forgotten. So today our task is to look ahead to the possibilities, the opportunities, and the challenges of the future.
We should be hopeful for 2015, because our faith tells us that God does have a plan for us. Ever since God first promised to make Abraham and his descendants a great nation, each year has brought mankind closer to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Each Christmas reminds us that God has been faithful to his promise to be with his people always. And each New Year’s reminds us that we have still greater opportunities to see God’s plan for us realized in the future.
So today, we let’s think about our New Year’s “Realizations,” rather than about the list of New Years “Resolutions” that we make and break each year.
Our first New Year’s Realization is that we are all, each one of us, specially blessed by God.
Our second New Year’s Realization is that our special blessing comes to us through Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, who became flesh to teach us to call God “Abba! Father!”
Our next New Year’s Realization is that we can all learn much more about what it means to be sons and daughters of God. Today’s Gospel reading tells us that “…she treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.” As sons and daughters of God, we should stop to reflect on the truths of our faith and treasure them in our hearts.
Our final New Year’s Realization is that if we are to grow as sons and daughters of God, we all need to meditate and pray. May this final New Year’s “Realization” lead us to a make at least one New Year’s Resolution that we will truly resolve keep. That we will meditate and pray fervently and more frequently in 2015!