Feast of Mary Mother of God: a new year resolution
Posted: Thu, 31 Dec 2020 08:02
On 1 January, we celebrate the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB offers a reflection on how she can help us towards a closer encounter with her son in a new year. Image: Icon of Mary, Mother of God, Carmel Baltimore
May I take this opportunity to wish you all every blessing and peace for this new year of 2021. This past year has brought us so many difficulties and problems, and it is our natural desire that this coming year be so much better—it surely cannot be any worse? As we begin this new period in our lives, let us make resolutions that will bring happiness and joy to all we encounter. May peace fill our own lives too: as this past year has taught us, we all have so much to share. You CAN do it! You CAN help to make 2021 a year to remember for the best possible reasons.
Just one week ago, we had what was, I am guessing was for most of us, the most unusual of Christmas celebrations. However, in spite of a global pandemic, we were still able to enjoy this time to be grateful, although so many of us have lost so much, that Christmas was not cancelled.
We honour today the gift of Mary of Nazareth. We boldly invoke, honour and address Mary as "Mother of God". This title is associated in particular with St. Cyril of Alexandria, and the 5th century Council of Ephesus. The birth of Jesus was a reality, and for the teenage girl, forced to give birth in a Bethlehem stable, it was all too real.
As our Gospel today tells us, it was those poor shepherds who were the first to greet Jesus—a living symbol of his future ministry to those on the margins. These were the first chosen ones—and it is good to remember that shepherding would not be a chosen career-path for the wealthy of Palestine. The shepherds went out of their minds. They were delirious with joy. They ran back to tell all the people what they had seen—that is what meeting Jesus does for you: you want to share the good news.
Mary sits quietly when she hears what the shepherds have been told about her child, and she ponders on what it means for her. Luke tells us that she is able to 'treasure' the words these simple, country folk said about her son. The respect and obvious love they have for this child are also treasures.
We can learn from these shepherds how to use our language to 'build-up'—let's make 2021 the year when we actually think before we speak. What we say about others can hurt and even destroy lives. This new year of 2021 is a call to be 'treasures' to others, as we are all still struggling to achieve a semblance of what we hope will be 'normality.'
Today, Mary invites us to ponder the meaning of her child. The shepherds were amazed by the good news, but we are like Mary, no longer amazed, but rather we are called to think about, to ponder, with Mary our mother, the implications of the coming of the Christ.
I would hope that we can follow the example of Mary and use any free time we have in this new year, to continue our needed reflection on how we can be Church in a time of crisis. Transformation must always begin with the individual—it is much easier to finger-point and hurl accusations at others. It is so much harder to work on our inner peace and happiness, as we shake off some of the bad habits or attachments or symptoms of petty selfishness that impede our union with God.
May we grow in humility. May we experience, enter, know, this year, a closer encounter with Jesus; a deeper union with him. In expression of that, may our life of prayer also become deeper, richer, and more constant. By this means, may the whole Church in our day be renewed in faith and hope and love.
We must have faith in the year that lies ahead and share it with those we will meet through the year. We must show love; a love that is caring and unconditional. After the year we have just experienced, we need to have hope in the prayer we make many times daily, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
I want wellbeing and a true sense of hope in this new year; the poetry of Seamus Heaney helps me—I hope it helps you too:
History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme
From 'The Cure at Troy', Seamus Heaney, 1990