Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Readings: Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67:2-3,5,6,8; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

BE WITH US MARY, ALONG THE WAY!

Today’s solemnity is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus and the role she played in the history of our salvation. The title “Mother of God” is derived from the Greek “Theotokos” (God-bearer). This solemnity could be traced to the Council of Ephesus in 431. In 1931, Pope Pius XI extended the feast to the entire church. Finally, in 1974, Pope Paul VI removed the feast of the Circumcision of Christ from the liturgical calendar, and replaced it with the feast of the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.”

The New Year offers new opportunities, new ideas, and new resolutions. It is a sign of regeneration and a time of hope. A young man was asked: “What is your new year resolution? And he simply responded: “I have resolved to walk on a holy path. I have always walked alone and failed. This year I will not walk alone again. So my number one priority this year is to walk with God and his Blessed Mother. I know I will not fail again.”

  • This is a true story that happened to my friend Rekha… Rekha maintains an exercise regime that includes a brisk walk every morning around some gardens in our neighbourhood. One morning, she was walking earlier then usual, daybreak was only just beginning to set in and it was still relatively dark. As she was walking, a cyclist came up to her, snatched her handbag (containing her keys, phone and credit cards) and sped off with it! She ran after him shouting “thief – thief”. A man further ahead must have heard her, or seen what had happened. He was washing a car and had a bucket of water with him. He grabbed the bucket and threw the water on to the cyclist. The cyclist, caught off guard, drove off the pavement and his bike fell over. The other people in the park rushed over and surrounded him. My friend Rekha was worried that the people would try and beat him up, as often happens in India, and so she pleaded with them not to hurt him. She bent down and asked the man why he did this to her? He was extremely repentent and explained that he was the son of a poor farmer and that this year their crops had failed. He said that the money lenders had threatened to beat up his father and hurt their family if they didn’t pay on time. He said that he was absolutely desperate and didn’t know what else to do. He was very sorry. Rekha was deeply moved by this story. She could see that boy was young and he was so skinny and bony. She looked into the boy’s eyes and said that she forgave him. She then pulled out some money from her handbag and gave it to him. She told him that stealing was wrong and that he shouldn’t do it again. He said he wouldn’t. He said he was from a good family and well brought up and that he had made a terrible mistake
  • Today, I felt terrible. My head was full of problems and confusion. I decided to take a walk even though I didn’t know where I would go. The most extraordinary thing happened when I was out on this walk. I saw an old man sitting on a chair. He was a seller of second-hand shoes. I thought he looked at least 70 years old. He seemed so tired and nobody was buying his shoes. I wanted to give him something but I had not brought anything with me. Then, a little girl came toward him. I heard the child say, “Grandfather, may I polish your shoes?” That old man took pity on her, smiled and he gave her a shoe to polish. The girl said, “I polish the shoe because I need money to buy my brother a new school uniform.” I heard this and tears came to my eyes. The old man answered, “Oh, little girl. Just stop doing this. Come with me and I will buy you a uniform.” Then they walked to a market (I followed behind) and he bought her a uniform. The girl was so happy. She said, “Thank you so much for doing this. May God bless you.” Then she left, leaving the old man smiling. He walked away from the market, but I stopped him. I whispered in his ear, “You are a hero! Thank you for your kindness!” As I walked away, I glanced back and I could see him still smiling. I was blown away by the kindness I had just seen. Someone who had so little themselves, was able to show such incredible generosity! Amazing! My own sadness had completely disappeared, chased way by the light of this kind act. I began realizing that I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope, some day, I can show my appreciation of what I have by following the example of the old man who only had a little, but shared it so beautifully with someone who had nothing
  • This is a true story of a mother’s sacrifice during the China Earthquake on 20 April, 2013. After the Earthquake had subsided, when the rescuers reached the ruins of a young woman’s house, they saw her dead body through the cracks. But her pose was somehow strange that she knelt on her knees like a person was worshiping; her body was leaning forward, and her two hands were supporting an object. The collapsed house had crashed her back and her head. With so many difficulties, the leader of the rescuer team put his hand through a narrow gap on the wall to reach the woman’s body. He was hoping that this woman could be still alive. However, the cold and stiff body told him that she had passed away for sure. He and the rest of the team left this house and were going to search the next collapsed building. For some reasons, the team leader was driven by a compelling force to go back to the ruin house of the dead woman. Again, he knelt down and used his had through the narrow cracks to search the little space under the dead body. Suddenly, he screamed with excitement,” A child! There is a child! “ The whole team worked together; carefully they removed the piles of ruined objects around the dead woman. There was a 3 months old little boy wrapped in a flowery blanket under his mother’s dead body. Obviously, the woman had made an ultimate sacrifice for saving her son. When her house was falling, she used her body to make a cover to protect her son. The little boy was still sleeping peacefully when the team leader picked him up. The medical doctor came quickly to exam the little boy. After he opened the blanket, he saw a cell phone inside the blanket. There was a text message on the screen. It said,” If you can survive, you must remember that I love you.” This cell phone was passing around from one hand to another. Every body that read the message wept. ” If you can survive, you must remember that I love you.” Such is a mother’s love for her child!!

In today’s First Reading, God gives a blessing for the Israelites. Hence today, through our first reading, God has equipped us for the journey ahead this year. It is a blessing and comes at no other time better than on this first day of the Year. He has pledged to allow the light of his face shine upon us. Therefore, all we need to do is simply say Amen. This is the evidence that God himself wishes to walk with us. So, all we need to do is resolve to walk with him and he will do the rest.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3,5,6,8 – All the people sing praises to God.

God sent his Son to make us children of God. The Second Reading reminds us of how God took flesh by being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most importantly, this reading reminds us of our adoptive sonship. By adoption, we are children of the same Father with Christ. Likewise, by adoption, we are children of Mary with Him. So, as children of the same God and Mother, we are born of the same spirit

Gospel Reading: The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. The Gospel simply reminds us that Mary played her motherly role very well towards her son Jesus Christ. Most importantly, it teaches us that she was obedient and fulfilled all that she was told to do. Not only did she give birth to Christ, she nurtured him like every good mother would. Hence, she is the epitome of good motherhood. So as we move into this year, the  reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at the Christmas Mass at midnight. In it the shepherds act upon the message they receive from the angel and go to find Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. In their visit to the manger, the shepherds find things just as the angel had said. The shepherds’ visit, therefore, is a moment of fulfillment, manifestation, and the beginning of the salvation we receive through Christ.

In the context of today’s Solemnity, this reading also helps us focus on Mary as the Mother of God. The reading tells us at least three things about Mary as a mother.

First, Mary is described as a reflective person, keeping the reports of the shepherds in her heart.

Second, we are reminded of how obedient Mary was to God when she named the baby Jesus as the angel Gabriel had directed.

Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing their Jewish tradition by having Jesus circumcised.

Mary’s faithfulness to God is evident in all three of these things. Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of prayer. This prayer made possible her obedience to God and God’s will, even if the outcome was not clear. Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God and enabled her to participate in God’s plan of salvation.

Because of Mary’s faithfulness to God, she was able to receive the gift of God’s Son and accept her role in God’s plan for salvation. By doing so, she models for us the path of discipleship and is also called Mother of the Church.

Mary is mother of the Promise, mother of us all. It is interesting that the root of the word ‘promise’ comes from the Latin for ‘sending forth.’ For God in unconditional love sent forth the Word, made flesh, through Mary. It is from her womb that Mary sent Jesus, God’s promise, into the world. She gives us Jesus the Christ, so that, through his death and resurrection, we may be saved – that we might live as daughters and sons of the unbroken promise. And as children of God, we are called to make known the Promise, to send forth this message of hope to our world.

As St. Augustine once said, “Christ is truth and peace and justice, conceive him in faith, give birth to him in works, so that what Mary’s womb did for the flesh of Christ, your hearts may do for Christ’s law.” Through our words and actions, we can participate with God, as did Mary, in bringing truth and peace and justice to our world. As the Church, the Body of Christ, we model Mary’s motherhood.

We can resolve this New Year’s to make known the promise, to make known the message, as the shepherds did in today’s Gospel. And in this Eucharist, we can join them in “glorifying and praising God” for all we have heard and seen. For a mother named Mary and her son named Jesus.

Our call to discipleship also includes these three aspects.

First, discipleship means prayer and reflection on the events of our lives that we might see God’s presence and work in our lives.

Second, discipleship means obedience to God and God’s will.

Third, discipleship includes fidelity to a community of faith.

For the God who provided my mother and who provides us with the grace and strength to keep promises. For the God who saves and blesses – ‘The Lord bless us and keep us! The Lord let his face shine upon us, and be gracious to us! The Lord look upon us kindly and give us peace!’

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YEAR OF MERCY

The Paradox of Our Age: We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, yet less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems; we have more gadgets but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness; we take more vitamins but see fewer results. We drink too much; smoke too much; spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast; get too angry quickly; stay up too late; get up too tired; read too seldom; watch TV too much and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we fly in faster planes to arrive there quicker, to do less and return sooner; we sign more contracts only to realize fewer profits; we talk too much; love too seldom and lie too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we write more, but learn less; plan more, but accomplish less; we make faster planes, but longer lines; we learned to rush, but not to wait; we have more weapons, but less peace; higher incomes, but lower morals; more parties, but less fun; more food, but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort, but less success. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; drive smaller cars that have bigger problems; build larger factories that produce less. We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, but short character; steep in profits, but shallow relationships. These are times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure and less fun; higher postage, but slower mail; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorces; these are times of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, cartridge living, thow-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies and pills that do everything from cheer, to prevent, quiet or kill. It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stock room. Indeed, these are the times! – Dr. Bob Moorehead -

IT IS A WAKEUP CALL FOR ALL OF US. WE ARE THE WORLD AND WE HAVE TO MAKE IT A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE IN, BY SPREADING MERCY AND COMPASSION.

On November 18, 2015 during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke specifically about one important sign of the Jubilee Year: the door.

The Holy Father referred to the recent Synod of Bishops, “which gave all families and all the Church a strong impetus to meet at the threshold of this open door. The Church was encouraged to open her doors, to go forth with the Lord towards his sons and daughters who walk together, at times uncertain, at times lost, in these difficult times. Christian families, in particular, have been encouraged to open the door to the Lord Who waits to enter, bringing His blessing. But the Lord never forces the door; He asks permission to enter through ours, although his doors are always open”.

“There are still places in the world where doors are not locked, but there are also many where reinforced doors have become normal. We must not accept the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to life within the family, in the city, in society, and far less so in the life of the Church. … An inhospitable Church, like a family closed in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and makes the world arid. No more reinforced doors in the Church!” “Let the Church always be a place of Mercy and Hope, where everyone is WELCOMED, LOVED AND FORGIVEN.” POPE FRANCIS.

The works of mercy are the practical ways we live out mercy. They are how we show loving kindness, compassion, and self-restraint to the people around us, both physically and spiritually. According to the Catechism, “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities” (No. 2447). While the exact list has varied slightly throughout the history of the Church, there are 14 consistently recognized works of mercy.

CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY

Feed the hungry

Give drink to the thirsty

Clothe the naked

Harbour the harbourless

Visit the sick

Ransom the captive

Bury the dead

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SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY

Instruct the ignorant

Counsel the doubtful

Admonish sinners

Bear wrongs patiently

Forgive offenses willingly

Comfort the afflicted

Pray for the living and the dead

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“Count your blessings instead of your crosses.

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes.

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears.

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full times instead of your lean.

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth.

Love your neighbor as much as yourself.”

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“Always remember to forget

The troubles that pass away.

But never forget to remember

The blessings that come each day.”

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God go before you to lead you;

God go behind you to protect you; God go beneath you to support you,

God go beside you to befriend you; God above you to watch you

May peace be in your heart to love and serve the Lord. Amen.

WISHING YOU ALL A BLESSED NEW YEAR 2016.

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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