PRAYERFUL NEW YEAR’S GREETINGS & GOD’S BLESSINGS
Thank you for being God’s instrument of blessing in my life by your valuable prayers and encouraging support for my Internet & Email Gospel ministry in the past years. I assure you of my special prayers every day in the New Year 2023 during my Holy Masses. May the Holy Spirit of God continue to empower you and guide you in your ministry and strengthen you in your weakness. May God bless you every day of the New Year! Prayerful New Year Greetings.
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God & New Year’s message, 2023 (Eight minute homily in one page)
Introduction: Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year? I pray that the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of Divine blessings. Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, is a very appropriate way to begin a new year, reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our Heavenly Mother. The Church also observes the World Day of Peace on this day and invites us to pray specially for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year. (You may add an anecdote)
Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful Divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year, and the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for that blessing. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians and us that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary and that it is through her son, Jesus that we have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them, and how Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart. The Gospel also tells us that on the day of Jesus’ Circumcision, the Child received the name Jesus that had been chosen by God Himself.
Traditional belief and Church doctrine: We honor Mary primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when He took on human flesh and became man, as stated in the Bible. The angel said to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Lk 1:30-32).
After the Angel had received her consent to become the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth said,” Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:42-43; RSV 2 Catholic) . Hence, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos) to correct the false teaching of Nestorius the Patriarch of Constantinople that Marywas only Christotokos, mother of the human person of Jesus and in Christ human nature and divine nature are distinct. In AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon reaffirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church.
Life messages: 1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Hence, let us honor Mary, our Heavenly Mother, by practicing her virtues of trusting Faith, obedience to the word of God, purity and humble, selfless, committed service.
2) Let us make the New Year meaningful by having every day a) some noble thing to dream, b) something good to do, and c) Someone to love, the first-person being Jesus. 3) Let us sanctify every day of the New Year: a) by offering every morning, all the activities of the day for God’s glory, thus transforming them into prayers, b) by asking for the anointing and strengthening of the Holy Spirit to do good to others and to avoid evil, c) by remaining faithful to our family prayers and Bible reading at night, d) by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins committed during the day and e) by seeking God’s special protection during the sleep. Before we sleep, let us say, “Good night, Lord,” repeating Jesus’ last words from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) LP/23
SOLEMNITY OF MARY THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (Jan 1, 2022)
Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: “You are my mother now.” In 1929, just 17 days short of his 9th birthday, the young Karol Wojtyla — the future Pope John Paul II — came home from the school in the evening. He was accustomed to see his father — a strong soldier in the Polish army — praying on his knees on their parlor’s hardwood floor. That day, when the young Karol, saw his father praying, he saw his dad’s knees bathing in a pool of tears. “What’s wrong, Papa?” the young future Pope asked his dad. “Karol, your mother has died!” was his father’s reply. Not knowing quite what to do, the eight-year-old ran out of his home to the local parish Church in Wadowice, less than half a block from the Wojtyla apartment. He entered the Church and almost instinctively ran up the aisle of the Church to a kneeler in front of a statue of our Lady and, with his own tears, said to her: “Blessed Mother of Jesus, I don’t know why God took my mother to His Home at the time He did. But I do know one thing: YOU are my mother now!” The Holy Father, who entrusted himself to our Lady before his ninth birthday, continued to consecrate himself to her ever after. His very motto, “Totus Tuus,” comes from a prayer of consecration to our Lady written by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, which he prayed every day: “I am all yours, O Mary, and all I have is yours. I take you completely into my home. Give me your heart, O Mary,” so that I may love God with it. (Fr. Roger J. Landry) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2: Smiling child and his mother: There is a beautiful little story about a long, tedious train journey, made one Christmas day by some elderly nursing home residents who were on their way to a vacation spot. At one station, a young mother with a small child entered the train. The child smiled at all the grim faces around him and began moving from one lap to another talking, shouting with joy and chatting with everyone. Instantly, the grim and silent atmosphere in the train was changed to one of joy and happiness. — Today we remember with joy and gratitude, how Mary and her Divine Son Jesus transformed a hopeless, joyless and sinful world into a place of joy and happiness. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3: # Deciding to jump: A boy asked his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hangs over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?” The dad replied, “Two.”
“No,” the son replied. “Here is the question again: There are three frogs, and one decided to jump, how many are left?”
The dad said, “Oh, I get the point! If one decided to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.”
The boy said, “No dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump.” — Does that sound like our last year’s resolutions? Great inspiration and great resolutions, but oftentimes we only decide, and months later we are still on the same limb of doing nothing. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 4: “There’s a real big difference between her son and me.”: A shoeshine boy was plying his trade in New York’s Grand Central Station. A silver medal danced at his neck as he slapped his shine cloth, again and again, across a man’s shoes. “Sonny,” said the man curiously, “what’s the hardware around your neck?” It’s a medal of the mother of Jesus,” the boy replied. “Why her medal?” said the man. “She’s no different from your mother.” “Could be,” said the boy, “but there’s a real big difference between her Son and me!” — The boy’s devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, invites me to ask: What role does Mary play in my life? How might she play an even bigger role? (Mark Link in Vision 2000). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Even This Shall Pass Away: Theodore Tilton (1835-1907) was the editor of The Independent, a New York weekly newspaper run by the Congregationalists. Tilton was also a poet who wrote the ‘King’s Ring.’ This poem tells the story of a Persian king who engraved the maxim on his signet ring, ‘Even this shall pass away.’ The king was very wealthy, and while he received more wealth, he would ask himself, “What is wealth?” Then he would answer his question by saying, “Even this shall pass away.” The king had many friends, and they would always make him happy. But he cried, “O loving friends of mine… Even this shall pass away.” The lady he crowned as his queen was the fairest of all, but he knew “mortal flesh should come to clay, even this shall pass away.” One day the king was wounded in the war, and he said, “Pain is hard to bear, but with patience day by day, even this shall pass away.” Later, when they put up his statue in the public square to honor him, he asked himself, “What is fame? Fame is but a slow decay; even this shall pass away.” We have heard that ‘time and tide wait for none.’ But as the Persian king realized, not only time and tide, but nothing in this life waits for us. Everything will pass away. We must remember this truth, especially when we are saying goodbye to another year in our life and entering a new one. Yes, our wealth, beauty, joys, and sorrows will pass away. Our lives will pass away. However, our acts of kindness and love will remain in the hearts of everyone we come across. Moreover, our faith assures us that our souls will live forever with God after we pass away from this world, provided we love him and obey his will always in our life here on earth. Hence, as we begin the New Year, the focus of our life should be primarily on things that will help us to be with God forever in peace and joy. I wish and pray that your New Year may be filled with love and acts of kindness that will last not only for the New Year but also forever. (Fr. Jose P, CMI)
Introduction: Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year? I pray that the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of God’s blessings. There are 19 Marian feast days, solemnities, and memorials on the liturgical calendar, ranging from the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God on January 1 to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. There are May devotions to Mary, and October is the month of the Holy Rosary, of which Mary is Queen. And then of course the Church has dedicated every Saturday to the Blessed Virgin.
Today we celebrate the oldest of all Marian feasts in our liturgy, most appropriate for those of us concerned with new beginnings, new resolutions, and renewed hopes. Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. This celebration reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother. Hence, our ideal motto for the New Year 2022 should be “” To Jesus through Mary!” This is an occasion to renew our devotion to Mary, who is also Mother of the Church because she is our spiritual mother — and we are the Church. “Pope St. Paul VI, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, Nov. 21, 1964, [declared] the Blessed Virgin Mary … ‘Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother.’”(America, March 3, 2018). Then, in 1970, Pope St. Paul VI instituted the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In his encyclical on devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marialis Cultus, he wrote, “This celebration, assigned to January 1st in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the ‘holy Mother … through whom we were found worthy … to receive the Author of life.’ The solemnity shows the relationship of Jesus to Mary. It’s a perfect example of how we should venerate Mary under all of her titles and is a good foundation for our understanding of Mary’s place in Christology. The Church puts the feast of this solemnity on the first day of the New Year to emphasize the importance of Mary’s role in the life of Christ and of the Church. We commemorate the various saints on the different days of the year, but Mary is the most prominent of them all. She has a special role and mission given to her by God. As Mother of our Redeemer and of the redeemed, she reigns as the Queen at the side of Christ the King. She is a powerful intercessor for all of our needs here on earth. In celebrating her special feast day, we acknowledge this great gift for the Church and world; we call on her to be actively involved in our daily life; we imitate her virtuous life as a great inspiration; and we cooperate with all the graces we get through her.”
The Church observes this day also as the World Day of Peace and invites us to pray specially for peace in the world. Inspired by Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope Paul St. Paul VI, in 1967, instituted this feast, first celebrated January 1, 1968. Today’s Scripture summarized: In the first reading, taken from the book of Numbers, God gives Moses and Aaron the formula they should use while conferring the Divine blessing upon the Israelites: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His Face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His Countenance upon you and give you peace” (Nm 6:24-26; RSV2Catholic) The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for the blessing of God, saying, “May God have pity on us and bless us; may He let His Face shine upon us.” In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary, and that it was through Him that they have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them. Further, Luke tells us how Mary treasured “all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19) The Gospel also recounts that on the eighth day after His birth the Child was circumcised and received the name Jesus that was chosen by God Himself.
Traditional belief: Actually, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God is a very ancient feast, which used to be celebrated on October 11th. Today’s feast answers the question, “Why do Catholics honor Mary?” Non-Christians sometimes believe that we Catholics worship Mary as a goddess who gave birth to our God. Non-Catholic Christians argue that there is no Biblical basis for honoring Mary, and that Catholics worship her and make her equal to God. They fail to understand why we honor Mary and name Churches and institutions after her. They do not understand what we mean by calling her the Mother of God. The truth is that we Catholics do not worship Mary as we worship, adore, God. We honor her, respect her, love her, and seek her intercession, praying, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners….” We do not, ever, equate her with God nor replace God with her. Rather, we honor her, primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the Mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, when He took on our flesh and became Man.
Biblical basis: We learn the great truth that Mary is the Mother of God from St. Luke’s Gospel, in the message given by the angel to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Lk 1:30-32; RSV2Catholic) Once Mary said yes, the Holy Spirit created in her womb the human nature that God the Son would assume. Since motherhood is of the person and not of the nature alone, and since Mary is the mother of Jesus, then she is rightly called the Mother of God. After the angel had received her consent to become the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. At Mary’s greeting Elizabeth said, ”Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:42-43;
RSV2Catholic). The Holy Scriptures teach us that Jesus was both God and man. John writes: “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14). St. Paul refers to this event when he writes to the Galatians, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,” and as, “eternally begotten of the Father.” So Bible teaches that Mary was the mother of the God-Man Jesus, not in the sense that she gave birth to Jesus as God, but in the sense that the Baby she bore had the nature of God and the nature of Man.
The doctrine of the Church:
Based on these references in the New Testament and on the traditional belief of the early Church, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos), because “according to the flesh” she gave birth to Jesus, Who was truly God as well as truly man from the first moment of His conception by Mary. The Council defined Mary as the Mother of God both to honor her and to safeguard the dogma that Jesus Christ is not just truly God but also truly man. The Nestorians – followers of Nestorius, the 5th-century archbishop of Constantinople – taught that Christ was two persons in one: the man Jesus and the Divine Son of God. This view was condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), which insisted that He is one Person with two natures, Divine and human. The most emphatic way they could say this was to affirm that Mary was not just the mother of the man Jesus, but that she was the mother of God. This was to say that Christ was one Person, not two. The word used was Theotokos, (Greek for ‘God-bearer’).
The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) continued the use of this term, and it has become orthodox Christian teaching. Note that this teaching is more a statement about Christ than about Mary – or rather, equally so. Icons of the Theotokos are common now in the West. It was twenty years after the AD 431 Council of Ephesus that the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a Dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. Since Jesus is God and Mary is his mother, she is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Messiah, and the Mother of Christ, our Divine Savior. We also learn from the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition that God filled the mother of His only Son with all celestial graces, freed her at the moment of her conception from original sin through the future (prevenient) merits of the death of Jesus, allowed her to play an active role in the redemptive work of Jesus, and finally took her to Heaven, body and soul, after her death. As He was dying on the cross, Jesus gave us the precious gift of His own mother to be our Heavenly Mother.
The historical Mary, the mother of Jesus. (Based on
https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/555/article/historical-mary , Dec. 2005):
Mary’s real name was Miriam. She spoke Aramaic (Southern Syriac) with a Galilean accent. Like the other women of her time, she was probably an illiterate, hard-working and healthy village girl, who labored in the field and in the kitchen. (If the tradition of her being raised in the Temple as a young girl is true, she might have learned to read Hebrew and sing Psalms). She knew her Hebrew prayers and understood some words and expressions in Greek and Latin, as these were used in Galilee by the Roman soldiers and the Greek merchants and pilgrims. She might have been fair-skinned, dark haired and dark eyed. At the time of the Annunciation, she was probably thirteen or fourteen. Joseph might have been a young man or a widower with children. In villages like Nazareth, four or five related families lived in adjacent houses around an inner courtyard. Mary gave birth to Jesus, probably in 4 BC, and she was younger than fifty and a widow when her son Jesus was crucified. After remaining in Nazareth for a few years, sharing the bitter experiences of the early Christian community, she might have moved to Ephesus along with John and died there. Jesus’ brothers and sisters mentioned in the Gospel were either children of Mary’s sisters or the children of Joseph’s brothers or even children of Joseph by an earlier marriage. Mary can easily identify herself with the poor and the oppressed and their hardships and aspirations, as she was part of that peasant community, which was forced to pay taxes to the Romans, to Herod the king and to the Temple (tithes). (For a scholarly article, visit: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/06/the-quest-for-the-historical-mary
1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Our Heavenly Mother is no exception. With Joseph, she succeeded in training the Child Jesus, so that He “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him” (Lk 2:40); RSV2Catholic). Hence, our best way of celebrating this feast and honoring our Heavenly Mother would be to promise her that we will practice her virtues of Faith, obedience, purity and loving, humble service, that we may become the saintly sons and daughters of our Heavenly Mother, the holy Mother of God.
2) We need our Heavenly Mother’s prayers to have a better physical life and spiritual life in the New Year: Let us ask for our Heavenly Mother’s help so that we may glorify God with a healthier physical and spiritual life and a better appreciation of life in a culture of death. We need a Super-Mother like Jesus’ Mother Mary to stop millions of pregnant women from killing their babies by abortion, and to encourage nations to enact and implement laws to stop homicides, physician-assisted suicides, mercy-killing and mass murders by terrorist and fanatic groups.
3) We need to honor Mary as the Mother of Jesus: “We honor Mary by actively participating in today’s Mass and in all the Marian feasts of the Church throughout the year. In these Masses and at other times, we give Mary hyperdulia (an honor greater than that given to the saints (dulia) and less than the adoration we offer to God), because of the gifts of grace God granted her and because of the way she responded to these gifts. We also honor her in all the forms of Marian prayer we say: The Rosary, the Angelus, the Regina Coeli, the Hail Holy Queen, the Memorarae, and so on. These are prayers we should pray so often we have them memorized. We can honor Mary by cultivating an interior life like hers. Mary meditated on, that is, thought about, the events of her life in relation to God’s plan of salvation. We are participants in God’s plan of salvation, too. We are God’s instruments and fellow workers in God’s kingdom. Everything that happens to us has a good meaning and it is up to us to try, with God’s help, to discover and appreciate it. Mary’s words at the wedding feast of Cana reveal her basic orientation, which we can apply to ourselves: ‘Do whatever He tells you.”’ We can honor Mary by praying for her intercession.” (DHO).
4) Three ways to make the New Year meaningful (William Barclay): a) something to dream, b) something to do, and c) Someone to love. “I have a dream’” said Martin Luther King. We should all have a noble plan of action (dream a noble dream), for every day in the New Year. We need to remember the proverb: “Cherish your yesterdays, dream your tomorrows, but live your today.” It has been truly said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We must not be barren fig trees, nor barren branches in God’s vineyard. We must be always engaged, doing good for others and loving the men and women we encounter in daily life, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This becomes easy when we make God the center of our life and realize His presence in all the people around us. Let us light a candle instead of blaming the darkness around us. Just as the moon borrows the sun’s light to illuminate the earth, we must radiate the Light of God shining within us. Let’s pray this prayer of Dag Hammarskjold: “Lord, for all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!”– and this as well: “Give me a pure heart that I may see Thee, A humble heart that I may hear thee, A heart of love that I may serve Thee, A heart of Faith that I may abide in Thee.”
4) A resolution for the New Year: We might resolve to start every morning with a short prayer: “Good morning, Lord. Thank You for extending my life for one more day. Please grant me a special anointing of Your Holy Spirit so that I may do Your holy will today and avoid everything evil.” We are advised to transform our daily work into prayer by offering it to God early in the morning. Besides the family prayer and Bible reading, we might also resolve to say a short prayer, every evening, the last thing we do before we go to sleep: “Thank You Lord for helping me to do Your will today. Forgive me, Lord, for saying ‘no’ to Your grace several times today. I am really sorry for all my sins of the day. Please pardon me.” And, as we close our eyes, we might say: “Good night, Lord. Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”
Have a Happy New Year, overflowing with a “Yes” to God our Father, to the Lord Jesus, our Savior and Brother, and to the Holy Spirit our Advocate and our Guide in every good deed His grace suggests! O, our God and our Hope, glory to You!
Exegetical notes on today’s readings
First reading, Numbers 6:22-27 explained: The Book of Numbers tells parts of the story of the Hebrews’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, events that happened in the 13th century BC. The Assyrians attacked the Northern Kingdom of Israel, capital Samaria, and by 721 BC had deported the inhabitants and recolonized the land with their own people. By 587 BC, the Chaldeans had invaded and defeated the Israelites in the Southern Kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital, had destroyed the Temple, and had taken the leaders and most of the people as captives to Babylon. Their “seventy years” there are known as the Exile. When they finally got to return to their homeland, their priests wanted to help restore the nation. One of their methods was to revive a sense of the people’s more glorious early history, so they retold a number of ancient stories from the time of Moses, producing what we now know as the Book of Numbers.
Perhaps this reading is in the Lectionary for today because the feast coincides with the civil New Year in many countries, and the blessing formula is a nice way to begin a new year. One of the liturgical acts of the priests in the Temple of Jerusalem was to bless the people after the daily sacrifices and on other solemn occasions. The blessing was a reward for the keeping of the Covenant by the people, and a guarantee that the blessing promised to all nations through Abraham would be fulfilled one day. The words of this blessing, given by God to Moses (the blessing of Aaron), are recorded in the verses of the book of Numbers which we read today at Mass. This blessing was entrusted by God, through Moses, to Aaron and his sons, that is, to the priests of the people of Israel. In ancient times, blessings and curses were thought to have almost a physical effect: they caused what they said. (The blessing of Jacob by Isaac is an example of this.) For us, the blessing is a prayer; we pray asking the Lord to bless us, keep us, and make His Face shine on us throughout the year. A key phrase in the formula: “The Lord let His Face shine upon you,” underlines a change in mankind’s understanding of God. Many ancient peoples believed that it was possible to see the Face of God, but dangerous, often fatal, to do so. Ancient Israel shared this conviction for a long time (see Ex 33:11, Dt 34:10, and Gn 32:31). But here the Lord God’s words encourage the people to expect to see the Face of God shining (smiling, perhaps?) on them. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for the blessing of God, in these very terms, saying, “May God have pity on us and bless us; may He let His Face shine upon us.” That “smile,” then, is the gift which the priests ask that those whom they bless may receive. This is a God still awesome to those who obey and worship Him, but less dreadful than previously believed. That’s God’s mercy in action. “These words of blessing will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.” (Pope Francis-2015).
Second Reading, Galatians 4:4-17 explained: Some among the Christians in Galatia were teaching that Christians still had to keep the Jewish law, even to the point of being circumcised, in order to be saved. Saint Paul argues forcefully that there should be no such requirement, because the coming of Christ has fulfilled the Old Law and annulled it. Christians are freed from slavery to the Old Law for they have been made children of God. Salvation, Paul teaches, comes as an undeserved gift of God which we accept by Faith in Christ. One reason this passage may be in the Lectionary today is that it contains a rare Pauline reference to Jesus’ birth of a woman. Paul does not mention Mary because here he is not concerned with details which are known to his converts. Since he has already mentioned the Divinity of Christ earlier in his Epistle, what Paul is stressing here is the reality of the human nature of Christ, the Self-humiliation of the Son of God Who deigned to be born of a mother like any human child. Paul also speaks of our adoption as children of God. We must be free from the entanglements of this world. Our relationship with God is so close that we can call him “Abba”, an intimate term for “Father” (perhaps better translated as “Daddy.”)
The Gospel message: Today’s Gospel tells us that the first people who came to adore the Baby Jesus were the shepherds. They were taking care of their flocks of sheep at night when an angel appeared to them and communicated to them the Good News concerning the birth of the Son of God. The angel told them that they should not be afraid. And that is precisely the message that the Solemnity we celebrate today brings us. Through this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the Church tells us that we should not be afraid, that we should prepare ourselves for the beginning of the New Year by asking Our Lord and our Most Beloved Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to come to our aid. We should ask her, not just today – although today is an especially important occasion for doing so – but always, to help us to live like people who have been renewed, ready, with her aid, to identify ourselves more closely with the teachings of the Church and with the Commandments, so that we may follow Christ more closely. Today’s Gospel selection ends with a one-sentence summary of Feast this day, the eighth after the birth of the Child, which commemorates, His Circumcision and His naming. The Son of God and Son of Mary is given the Name chosen for Him by God before His conception — Yeshua (Jesus) which means, “The Lord saves.” The rite of Circumcision unites Mary’s Child with the chosen people and makes Jesus an heir to the promises God made to Abraham — promises to be fulfilled in the Child himself. Why did Jesus give us His Mother? Jesus gave us His Mother so that she would be the Mother of all humanity. After having considered the role of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit, we should think about her role in the mystery of the Church. We know that the Virgin Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ and, consequently, the Mother of God. But she is also the Mother of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Because of this, the mission of Mary is totally inseparable from the mission of the Church. And it should be clearly stated here that the role of Mary, as Mother of all humanity, in no way eclipses or diminishes Christ. On the contrary, her role can only help to clarify Christ’s role. This is one of the reasons that God decided to share his Mother with us.
Many non-Catholic Christians really don’t pay much attention at all to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We Catholics, on the other hand, recognize her as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. We know that Jesus took her up to Heaven, body and soul, as soon as her earthly mission was over. This is the Dogma of the Assumption, defined by the Church through the infallible papal promulgation, Munificentissimus Deus, of Pope Pius XII, November 1, 1950. It makes sense that the woman who bore God in her womb should be borne by God into Heaven, and not left in a grave to turn back into dust. In fact, in the Old Testament, the Queen of the Kingdom of Israel was always the Queen Mother. One of King Solomon’s first acts when his father David gave him the throne was to raise his mother Bathsheba to his side, to be the royal Queen – a mini-Assumption. There was a practical reason for this tradition: an Old Testament King used to marry more than one wife, but he had only one Mother, so she became Queen. But there was also a deeper, prophetic meaning at work. God was already planning to send the Messiah through a Virgin, to involve a Mother intimately in the Redemption, just as a mother (Eve) had been involved intimately in the Fall (original sin). God did it that way on purpose. God gives his Mother a special place in the ongoing history of salvation, because He wants to tell us something about His love for us. It is faithful, strong, and indestructible, because He is our Father. But it is also gentle, patient, and ever-present, always watching over us – like a Mother. Mary, our heavenly Queen and spiritual Mother, reminds us of this. (E-Priest). LP/ 23
Video of the week: ((Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, gives a heartfelt talk on how Mary interceded for him during his Hollywood career, https://youtu.be/Gq9reKWDdXo ))
America Magazine article on historical Mary (a must-read article): https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/555/article/historical-mary
5 Additional anecdotes
1) Is it possible to have a birth without a mother? Monsignor Arthur Tonne tells the story of a Catholic pastor in a small Alabama city of mostly Southern Baptist Christians who decided to put up a Christmas crib in the town square. The priest with some of his prominent parishioners approached some rich people and businesses for donation. When they went to see the rich editor of the local newspaper the priest explained the project: “Many people, especially the children will be inspired to see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and animals right here in the center of the town.” The editor agreed to help on condition that Mary must be left out. Otherwise, it would be promoting your Catholic denomination. The priest said: “Tell you what. Tell me how you can show a birth without a mother, and I will agree to leave Mary out!” — The editor had no answer and the Mother was with her Child in the town square. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “Chivalrous sensibility”: In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said that no subject in our Faith needs to be approached more delicately than this, and one of the reasons he cited was that Catholics have a natural affection for Mary, and when Mary is attacked Lewis says that Catholics respond with that “chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honor of his mother or his beloved is at stake.” Lewis says that Catholics feel this way about Mary “very naturally,” but there is one person who feels that way about Mary even more naturally than we do: her literal Son according to the flesh — Jesus Christ. (http://jimmyakin.com/the-key-to-understanding-mary) As the obedient, infinitely holy Son of God, the Lord Jesus was a very firm believer in the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Now, what most people don’t know about that commandment is that in Hebrew it literally reads, “Glorify your father and mother.” This means that, since Christ took God’s commandments very seriously, He would glorify his mother Mary, and for us to talk about His mother in a cavalier, irreverent manner is to impugn the glory which Christ himself has given her. As a result, if we were to talk about Mary in an impious manner then we would be offending not only Mary but also Christ by denying his mother the glory that He Himself gave her. (Jimmy Akins of Catholic Answers). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Help of Christians” If you ever have the chance to visit the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians in the northern Italian city of Turin, toward the back of the Church you will find a painting depicting a famous dream of the basilica’s builder, St. John Bosco. At the center of the painting is a great flagship in the midst of a ferocious battle at sea. The ship is surrounded by a large enemy fleet bombarding it with cannon balls and incendiary bombs and ramming their sharp prows into its side. A man dressed in white stands at the tip of the ship’s bow attempting to guide it safely to the shore. Separated by a distance equal to the width of the ship are two tall pillars through which the ship must pass to arrive at the shore. On the top of one of the pillars is an image of Mary with the words “Help of Christians” written below; on the top of the other is a large white communion host, with the words, “Salvation of the Faithful” beneath it. Each time an enemy ship succeeds in creating a gash in the side of the flagship a breeze arriving from the pillars patches up the hole. At one point, according to the text of the dream, the captain in white falls down wounded and dies, and the men in the enemy ships cheer and rejoice. Almost right away, however, the other men on the flagship elect a new captain, also dressed in white, who rises up immediately to continue to guide the ship to safety. The battle continues to rage fiercely, but the new captain succeeds in steering the ship between the two pillars, bringing it into port. As soon as it is anchored to the two columns all of the enemy ships that had fought against it flee away, colliding against each other and breaking to pieces. Suddenly, the waters are still, and a great calm reign over the sea.
Contained within this painting are images similar to those which the Church proposes today for our contemplation as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which coincides with the World Day of Peace, and comes at the conclusion of the octave of Christmas. St. John Bosco, a man gifted with many prophetic dreams during his life, saw the scene depicted in this painting one night in May of 1862. He understood the flagship as an image of the Church, the captain in white as a symbol of the Holy Father, and the enemy ships as representative of enemies of the Church subjecting her to persecution. The two pillars and the images resting on them represent the protection and help that Jesus and Mary provide the pilgrim Church on earth. While maintaining the primacy of this interpretation, one could also make many comparisons between these images and the individual Christian’s experience of moving forward on his pilgrimage to eternity. (Rev David Rider; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala.
4) Being given a name: In his book Roots, Alex Haley tells how his African ancestors named their children. Eight days after the child’s birth, the father would take the child into his arms and whisper its name into its ear. That night the father would complete the ceremony. Carrying the child out under the stars, alone, he would lift the baby up to the sky and say, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.” This naming rite helps us appreciate better the two rites that surrounded the birth of Jesus: Circumcision and Presentation. Circumcision initiated Jesus into the community of God’s chosen people. Presentation consecrated Jesus to God.
(Mark Link in Daily Homilies; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala).
5) The late Erma Bombeck’s memorable resolutions: 1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
2. I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers. 4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
JOKES OF THE DAY
1) Dad’s resolution: Last year when I called my parents to wish them a happy New Year, my dad answered the phone. “Well, Dad, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” I asked him. “To make your mother as happy as I can all year,” he answered proudly. Then mom got on, and I said, “What’s your resolution, Mom?” “To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution.”
2) Someone once said…”I made 6 resolutions last year and I kept them all year long: they are in an envelope on the top of my file cabinet.”
3) Giving up cigarettes: Mark Twain wrote: “Giving up cigarettes is easy. I do it a hundred times a week.” Many of us, like Twain, grow easily discouraged from one broken resolution or other. I heard about one poor fellow who decided to make only resolutions this year he could keep. He resolved to gain weight, to stop exercising, to read less and watch more TV, to procrastinate more, to quit giving money and time to charity, not to date any member of the cast of Baywatch, and never to make New Year’s resolutions again.
4) New Year prayer: Dear Lord! So far this year I’ve done well. I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper, I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on ,I’m probably going to need a lot more help. Amen
5) “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
6) “In the arms of another man’s wife.” The elderly pastor with poor memory was shocked to hear the well-known televangelist utter the words; “Yes, I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.” He could see in the TV screen the shocked reaction of the large audience. Then, following a pause, the evangelist added, “That woman was my mother.” The audience exploded into laughter. A few weeks later our old pastor thought that he would surprise his parishioners with the shocking sermon starter of the TV evangelist. So, he started his preaching on Mary the Mother of Jesus exclaiming, “My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I think I have to make a public confession before you. I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.” The audience, as he expected, were spellbound at the shocking confession of their holy pastor. Then after a long pause, the old pastor muttered meekly, “But for the life of me, I can’t remember who she was!”
(The original version: A senior priest went to his bishop with this complaint: “Now I have great difficulty in preaching. I cannot get the people’s attention.” After stroking his chin His Excellency suggested: “Say something striking at the beginning of your homily.” “Could you give me an example?” begged the old padre. “Well,” suggested the bishop, “you might start like this: ‘I am in love’: ‘I am in love with a married woman’; ‘Her name is Mary'”. Next Sunday the priest started his sermon thus: “The bishop is in love’; He is in love with a married woman’. After an embarrassing pause the priest continued: “But I have forgotten her name.” (Mgsr. Arthur Tonne).
7) Humorous: Resolutions: Wife to Spouse: “I don’t want to brag, but here it is February and I’ve kept every one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve kept them in a manila folder in the back of my desk!” (Orben’s Current Comedy). Some of us make resolutions like one man, named George, I heard about recently. He said to a friend: “There’s nothing like getting up at six in the morning, going for a run around the park, and taking a brisk shower before breakfast.” His friend Bob asked, “How long have you been doing this?” George said: “I start tomorrow.”
Pope Francis’ prayer on the feast of Mary the Mother of God: As we celebrate Mary this Jan. 1, we can pray with Pope Francis, who ended his recent [Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013] exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), with the following prayer: “Mary, Virgin and Mother, you who, moved by the Holy Spirit, welcomed the Word of Life in the depths of your humble Faith: As you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One, help us to say our own “Yes” to the urgent call, as pressing as ever, to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Filled with Christ’s presence, you brought joy to John the Baptist, making him exult in the womb of his mother. Brimming over with joy, you sang of the great things done by God. Standing at the foot of the cross with unyielding Faith, you received the joyful comfort of the Resurrection and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit, so that the evangelizing Church might be born. Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the Resurrection, that we may bring to all the Gospel of life, which triumphs over death. Give us a holy courage to seek new paths, that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman. Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast, pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are, that she may never be closed in on herself or lose her passion for establishing God’s Kingdom. Star of the New
Evangelization, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous Faith, Justice, and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world. Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us. Amen. Alleluia!”
7 Ups for the New Year (Adapted from Rev. Walter Schoedel)
1) WAKE UP–Begin the day thanking the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice in it. 2) LOOK-UP–Open your eyes to the Lord Jesus. Ask for His strength and blessings for the day through the anointing of His Holy Spirit. After all, He is your only Savior.
3) DRESS-UP–Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It says something about your attitude. It enables Jesus living within you smile at others.
4) SHUT-UP–Watch your tongue. Don’t gossip. Don’t be judgmental. Say nice things. Learn to listen to others with love. Be sympathetic. 5) STAND-UP–Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good. Have the courage of your Christian convictions by practicing what you believe.
6) REACH-UP–Spend time in prayer by talking to God with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings, and supplications, and by listening to Him through the attentive reading the Bible and the application of its message to your life.
7) LIFT-UP–Be available to help those in need–serving, supporting, and sharing. Try to find Jesus in others and serve Him there by serving them. LP/23
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 8) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit also
https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony’s homilies and under Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in for other website versions. (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave,