Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. January 1, 2016. Nm 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21
It is about the time of the year when we make our New Year resolutions. Whether they are minor resolutions or major ones, our common experience is that we do not always keep our good resolutions. I wish I could say that I was faithful to all my New Year resolutions last year beyond January. We begin to take back from our good resolutions a little at a time before we finally give them up completely, getting so discouraged that we do not bother making good resolutions in life.
When we get to the point of abandoning our good resolutions or getting discouraged because of our failures to be faithful to our promises and resolutions, we need to stop and ask ourselves one question, “Am I focusing on my own promises to God and my good resolves or am I focusing more on God’s promises to me?” Frustration and abandonment of good resolutions arise when our good resolutions become our focus and we begin to take God’s promises to us for granted.
Today’s First Reading from the Book of Numbers shows us God’s promise to bless His people and to let them see His face, a promise of God to let His people experience His closeness to them. Aaron and his sons are to bless God’s people by saying over them, “The Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” God will bless His people with His presence when Aaron and his sons have faith enough to act on God’s promise and speak His words of blessing, “So they shall invoke my name upon the Israelites and I will bless them.”
This promise of God to let “His face shine upon us and be gracious to us” is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in whom we see the face of God. In the words of St. Paul, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age.” (Tim 2:11-12) God’s ultimate promise to us is to send us His own Son, Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of this promise makes it possible for us to be faithful to our own promises to Him.
St. Paul reminds the Galatians in the Second Reading that God fulfilled this His greatest promise to us by sending His Son to us through Mary, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoptions as sons.” In the divine plan, God’s ultimate promise was dependent on the free consent of Mary to the divine plan at the moment of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. Her free consent has made it possible for us to be faithful to our own promises to God as His beloved children freed from the slavery to sin.
Mary became the Mother of God by exercising a faith strong enough to give a full consent to the divine will because she believed completely in God’s promise to her. She never forgot God’s promises to her through the Angel Gabriel, “The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid Mary for you have found favor with God… You will conceive and bear a son, and you will call His name Jesus…He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High… The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Even Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith in God’s promises to her, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” It is Mary’s complete faith in God’s promise to her that will keep her standing at the foot of the Cross on Calvary.
Today’s Gospel passage shows us Mary bringing forth the Savior in very difficult circumstances, in a manger, far from her native home, in a land where they are not welcomed like other travelers, and where there was no room for them in an inn. Maybe her resolution at the moment of the Annunciation is on her mind now, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” The Angel never told her it would turn out this way. She is able to keep her holy resolve that she made at the Annunciation because she never doubted God’s promises to her.
Most importantly, Mary reflected on all things – the words of the shepherds, her difficult situation and all her experiences – in the light of God’s promises to her, “And Mary kept all these things, pondering on them in her heart.” Mary is not just pondering individual separate events but she is reflecting on them all in the light of God’s promises to her. For Mary, it was not the darkness of reality that cast doubt on God’s promises to her but rather, God’s promises to her shaped her response to realities of the present moment. For her, the focus was not on her faithfulness to God’s promises but on God’s own faithfulness to her as she attested to Elizabeth, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Mother of God today, let us turn with confidence to Mary for two reasons. First of all, in Mary’s heart we hear the living echo of God’s own faithfulness to us because God fulfilled all His promises to us in choosing Mary to be the Mother of Jesus, the God-Man, “Blessed be God who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” All that God promises us in this life is found in Christ Jesus – grace, adoption, salvation, mercy, faith, hope, love, peace, joy, etc., and God sent us His own through the consent of Mary. In the heart of Mary, we can never lose touch with God’s own promises to us.
Secondly, we turn to Mary with confidence because she helps us to be faithful to our promises to God. We need the grace of God to inspire our good resolutions and to be faithful to them to the very end. Mary teaches us to focus more on God’s promises to us than on our own promises to God and to know that God will always be faithful to us even if we are not faithful to Him. This is the secret of persevering in our good resolutions when we do not see results and the cost seem unbearable.
The call to turn to Mary today is made more urgent by the numerous acts of violence that we are seeing in our world today. I recently read of the trending brutally violent actions called the Knockout game in which the goal is to try and knock an unsuspecting person down with a single blow or kick. It is shocking to see videos of people walking up to innocent strangers and punching them as hard as possible all in the name of a game.
Because God’s promises has faded away from our hearts and minds, we forget that peace that Christ has promised to us and He has won for us by His death on the Cross, we forget that in and through Christ’s sacrifice, we are now all children of God, reconciled with the Father and in communion with all our brothers and sisters, and then we forget that our eternal destiny depends on how we treat others. Consequently, we begin to play the Knockout game, maybe not in physical and violent ways, but in our hearts and minds and by our words. We lose our peace of heart when we try to take others down by our negative thoughts and words in our own knockout game.
This is a New Year for us and Jesus Christ offers us once again the gift of His peace. We must not be afraid to begin again this Year and renew our resolution to work for that peace beginning with our own inner peace that comes from reconciliation with God and with others. There will be failures and setbacks for sure in this resolution. That is where Mary comes into the picture. Let us begin the year with her as Our Mother of peace and stay close to her always from now on. We will be grounded more firmly in God’s promises to us than to our promises to Him and open ourselves to the grace that makes it possible for us to be faithful to our own inspired good resolutions. This is how we shall enter the peace of Jesus Christ.
Happy New Year!!!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!