Jan 1: Mary, Mother of God and New Year

Mary, Mother of God and New Year

Anecdote: There is a beautiful, little story about a long, tedious train journey made, one Christmas day, by some elderly residents of a nursing home 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. 

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. Today's Feast of "Mary, 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 2013 should be "Through Mary to Jesus!"

Today's feast answers the question of why Catholics honour 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 honouring Mary, and that Catholics worship her and make her equal to God. They fail to understand why we honour Mary by naming 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 honour 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 honour her primarily because God honoured 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.  

Exegesis

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: "You are going to be the mother of a Son and you will call Him Jesus, and He will be called the Son of the Most High." When the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth, after the angel had appeared to her and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth said, "Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord's mother comes to visit me?" [Lk. 1:43]. 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".

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 because "according to the flesh" she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God from the first moment of His conception by Mary. Twenty years later, in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the 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, Mother of the Messiah and the Mother of Christ our Divine Saviour. We also learn from the Holy Scriptures and 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, 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.  

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. Our heavenly Mother is no exception. She succeeded in training the Child Jesus, so that He grew in holiness and in "favour before God and man." Hence our best way of celebrating this feast and honouring our heavenly Mother would be to promise her that we will practice her virtues of faith, obedience, purity and humble service. In this way, we will be trying to become the saintly sons and daughters of our heavenly Mother, the holy Mother of God.

2) Three ways to make the New Year meaningful: 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 in God's vineyard. We must be always engaged, doing good to others and loving our fellow men and women, who 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. 

3) 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 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 to the Holy Spirit our Advocate and our Guide to every good deed.
 

Welcome to a new year! Thank God we have lived to see it! I have the privilege of accompanying you, if you wish, every day of this new year as we read the gospel passages together, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like us, those disciples had no idea what lay in store for them. Their minds were fixed on a disastrous past and a bleak future. But Jesus was walking beside them, talking with them, drawing out their fears: he was nearer than they could ever have imagined. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road?” (Luke 24:32). We know only one thing about the future: the Jesus will walk with us, no matter what happens.

Mary too will walk with us. It is appropriate to have a mother to accompany our first steps. January 1st is always her feast. Her title, ‘Mother of God, affirms equally the humanity and the divinity of Jesus.

The Nestorians – followers of Nestorius, the 5th-century archbishop of Constantinople – said that Christ was two persons: the man Jesus and the divine Son of God. This view was condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), which insisted that he was 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 it is more a statement about Christ than about Mary – or rather, equally so. Icons of the ‘Theotokos’ are common now in the West.

In a sense, when a child is born a mother is born. When a child is born, its mother begins to be a mother. Even if she was already mother to other children this new child makes her a new mother; a new chapter in her mothering begins. In the birth of the Son of God, Mary begins to be the Mother of God. When a Child is born, a Mother is born.
 

ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1. Did you know that New Year's Day is the one holiday that is almost universal? It is the world's most observed holiday.  

I trust you've made your New Year's resolutions one of which is to be in worship each week. Well done for this first Sunday. I won't ask you if you've resolved to lose the weight you gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or if you're planning on joining a health club, or if you're going to run five miles a day. Five miles, by the way, is my total aggregate of a lifetime of running. 

The late Erma Bombeck made some memorable resolutions over the years:

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.

2. Joke writer Ed McManus has some words of comfort for those of us who are setting resolutions: "Don't worry about [keeping] those 2013 News Year's resolutions," he says. "You only have to deal with them until the end of February and then you can give them up for Lent." It sounds like he has been spying on some of us.

Resolutions are good, especially if there are changes we need to make in our lives. I heard about one poor guy who dialled his girlfriend and got the following recording: "I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."

It's good to make changes, for the most part. As we are often reminded by our critics, our spouses or our children, none of us is perfect. In fact, some of us might have some deep regrets about the way we've lived our lives.

3. Dr. Les Parrott tells about a guy in Fredericksburg, Virginia named Cliff Satterthwaite who helps people get rid of their regrets. Each New Year's Eve Mr. Satterthwaite sets up a booth there in Fredericksburg where those celebrating New Year's Eve can come for a moment of sober reflection. Put the emphasis on "sober" reflection. Those who come write their regrets on a scrap of paper, then they set a match to them and turn them to ashes in an adjacent canister. Literally, their regrets go up in smoke. At least, that's the general idea. 

We could do that. We could write our regrets on a piece of paper and bring them to the altar and watch them go up in smoke. That might be very therapeutic for some of us as we begin a new year. But our text for the day from the prologue to the Gospel of John puts the emphasis not on our past, but on our future. Not on our regrets, but on our possibilities....

4. Tom Ervin, Professor of Music at the University of Arizona was attending a conference for music teachers in New York. While at the conference he purchased a talking metronome. A metronome is a device for counting the beats in a song. Before Tom and his son boarded their flight home, Tom hefted his carry-on bag onto the security-check conveyor belt.

The security guard's eyes widened as he watched the monitor. He asked Tom what he had in the bag. Then the guard slowly pulled out of the bag this strange looking device, a six-by-three-inch black box covered with dials and switches. Other travellers, sensing trouble, vacated the area.

"It's a metronome," Tom replied weakly, as his son cringed in embarrassment. "It's a talking metronome," he insisted. "Look, I'll show you." He took the box and flipped a switch, realizing that he had no idea how it worked. "One . . . two . . . three . . . four," said the metronome in perfect time. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

As they gathered their belongings, Tom's son whispered, "Aren't you glad it didn't go 'four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . '?" For the past few weeks we have been counting down the days until Christmas. Now we could count the hours until the dawning of a New Year. But we need to linger with Mary and Joseph for a little while longer, because what happened immediately after Christmas is a stark reminder of the world in which we live... 
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6. Stay Focused!
 
We sometimes miss the great opportunities of life because we get sidetracked. I once heard the tale of a talented and gifted bloodhound in England that started a hunt by chasing a full-grown male deer. During the chase a fox crossed his path, so he began now to chase the fox. A rabbit crossed his hunting path, so he began to chase the rabbit. After chasing the rabbit for a while, a tiny field mouse crossed his path, and he chased the mouse to the corner of a farmer's barn. The bloodhound had begun the hunt chasing a prized male deer for his master and wound up barking at a tiny mouse. It is a rare human being who can do three or four different things at a time--moving in different directions. 
The Apostle Paul knew his number one priority in life was to live his life to the honor and glory of God by preaching the Gospel. However, we know that Paul is not in a plush hotel room but in prison. He receives a report that all is not well at the Church in Philippi. His very life could be ended at any moment. And the list goes on. However, the Apostle Paul would not allow anything to cross his path that would deter him from his priority. Paul knew that his new life was a gift from God, not from the promises of humanity. His life was to be lived for his master. Nothing would sidetrack him of that priority!
 Eric S. Ritz
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7. Living by the Calendar Instead of the Clock (New Year's)

"Leisure," from the Latin, means "to be free." Leisure is anything that restores you to peace while you are doing it. So, gardening, golf, reading, puzzles, and many other things can restore us to peace as we do them. Another cousin of leisure is the word "paragon." This little-used word means "the second thing that we do in life that keeps the first thing in tune." Hence, our work may draw energy from us, and we have then a "paragon," a leisure thing we do in order to restore us.  

Most often, to build toward leisure demands that we disassemble something else. In Thomas Moore's book Meditations, he tells of a pilgrim walking along a road. The pilgrim sees some men working on a stone building.

"You look like a monk," the pilgrim said.
"I am that," said the monk.
"Who is that working on the abbey?"
"My monks. I'm the abbot."
"It's good to see a monastery going up," said the pilgrim.
"They're tearing it down," said the abbot.
"Whatever for?" asked the pilgrim.
"So we can see the sun rise at dawn," said the abbot. 

Richard A. Wing
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8. Who Needs Resolutions? We Need a Revolution!

Welcome to this New Year. I trust that one of your resolutions for this year is to be in worship every week. Good for you. That's one resolution you've kept for at least one week.
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, to not date any member of the cast of Baywatch, and to never make New Year's resolutions again.
Maybe he's onto something. Why torture ourselves when we never keep those resolutions more than a week anyway?
What we need, of course, is not another resolution, but a revolution. We need a turning point in our lives. Like the wise men of old we need to catch a glimpse of a guiding light, and we need to follow that light to a New Life in Christ. 

King Duncan
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9. Seven Resolutions

I like a list of resolutions prepared by the Rev. Walter Schoedel. He calls them '7-UPS for the New Year.' No, this has nothing to do with the soft drink. These 7-UPS fall under the heading of attitudes and actions.

The first is WAKE UP--Begin the day with the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice in it.
The second is DRESS-UP--Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It says something about your attitude.
The third is SHUT-UP--Watch your tongue. Don't gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen.
The fourth is STAND-UP--Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good.
Five, LOOK-UP--Open your eyes to the Lord. After all, He is your only Savior.
Six, REACH-UP--Spend time in prayer with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to the Lord.
And finally, LIFT-UP--Be available to help those in need--serving, supporting, and sharing.

If you're going to make New Year's resolutions this year, let me suggest Rev. Schoedel's list.
Why do we bother to make New Year's resolutions in the first place? Why do we feel this need each January 1 to set new goals? Maybe it is because resolutions help us to identify our priorities. They answer the Question: how do I want to invest my time, energy, money, and talents in this New Year? The New Year reminds us that time is passing. It is up to each of us to maximize the potential of every moment. 

Walter Schoedel
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10. Keep Your Head Right
Pastor Stephen Brown taught swimming and diving for a number of years. He tells about a young boy named Billy. Billy had watched so many professional divers and wanted so much to dive like them that he refused to take time to learn the basics. Time after time Brown tried to help Billy see that the most important thing about diving was to keep his head in the proper position. If his head entered the water properly, Brown explained, the rest of his body would enter the water properly--at least, more properly than it had been. Billy would dive into the pool, do a belly flop, and come up grinning, "Mr. Brown," he would shout, "were my feet together?"

"Billy, I don't care whether your feet were together or not," Brown shouted back. "Make sure your head is straight, then everything else will work out."
The next time Billy would stand on the edge of the pool and really concentrate. Then he would dive and, once again, make a mess of it. "Mr. Brown, were my hands together?"
"Billy," Brown would groan in frustration, "I'm going to get you a neck brace and weld it onto your head. For the hundredth time, if your head is right the rest of you will be right. If your head is wrong, the rest of you will be wrong."
And isn't that true in all of life? If our head is wrong, our marriage will probably suffer. If our head is wrong, our priorities will be fouled up. If our head is wrong, it may even affect our health in a negative way. God understands our distress and God seeks to make us new persons so that we can handle our distress more effectively. 

Stephen Brown, When Being Good Isn't Good Enough, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. Adapted by King Duncan
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11. Humor: 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
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12. Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
Proverbs 27:1
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13. Getting Started
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."
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14. Humor: 90 Days

We're only two days away from the New Year, and I can feel the anticipation--or dread, depending on your point of view--growing.

I heard one guy say he already dreads the New Year. He said, "The holidays aren't quite over and already I'm about 90 days ahead on my calories and 90 days behind on my bills." Some of you can identify with him.
King Duncan