Solemnity of Mother of God – Year A ~ January 1, 2023
LET US WALK WITH MOTHER OF GOD
Today begins a new year with new dreams, expectations, and hopes. Every time we begin a new year, we are invited to look at our past as well. Why do we need to look at our past year? For us to live life to the fullest in the present, we must be prepared to ask the right questions about our past. The past is there for us to study and learn from so that we can make our future better. We can use our past experiences to become more effective, more productive, and even wiser. For us to understand what’s happening in our present and before we decide what will happen in our future, try and reflect on our past. Recall our strengths from the past and learn from the weaknesses that frustrate us. But although many people tend to live defined by their past choices, we should not let it hold us back. Always remember that each new day brings an opportunity for us to create a brighter future. The past is filled with learning opportunities for our present and future. The past is not to hold us captive of bad and sad experiences of our lives or the times we failed but it helps us to move forward and find new horizons of hope.
A gentleman was walking through an elephant camp, and he spotted that the elephants weren’t being kept in cages or held by the use of chains. All that was holding them back from escaping the camp, was a small piece of rope tied to one of their legs. As the man gazed upon the elephants, he was completely confused as to why the elephants didn’t just use their strength to break the rope and escape the camp. They could easily have done so, but instead, they didn’t try to at all.
Curious and wanting to know the answer, he asked a trainer nearby why the elephants were just standing there and never tried to escape. The trainer replied; “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The only reason that the elephants weren’t breaking free and escaping from the camp was that over time they adopted the belief that it just wasn’t possible. No matter how much the world tries to hold you back, always continue with the belief that what you want to achieve is possible. Believing you can become successful is the most important step in actually achieving it.
There is a time for every matter under the sun as Sacred Scripture reminds us (please read Ecclesiastes 3:1-12). The universe is created under the time frame, and it reminds us that everything moves by the commandment of the Lord. Today as we begin a new year, we all are invited to celebrate the Solemnity of Mother of God and pray for peace in the world. Also, we are reminded to walk with the Blessed Virgin Mary who is not only the Mother of God but also she is our mother. Why do we begin the new year with the feast of Blessed Virgin Mary?
In the words of St. Bernard: “The goodness and humanity of God our Savior has appeared in our midst. We thank God for the many consolations he has given us during this sad exile of our pilgrimage here on earth. Before the Son of God became man, his goodness was hidden, for God’s mercy is eternal, but how could such goodness be recognized? It was promised, but it was not experienced, and as a result few have believed in it. Often and in many ways the Lord used to speak through the prophets. Among other things, God said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. But what did men respond, thinking thoughts of affliction and knowing nothing of peace? They said: Peace, peace, there is no peace. This response made the angels of peace weep bitterly, saying: Lord, who has believed our message? But now men believe because they see with their own eyes, and because God’s testimony has now become even more credible. He has gone so far as to pitch his tent in the sun so even the dimmest eyes see him. Notice that peace is not promised but sent to us; it is no longer deferred, it is given; peace is not prophesied but achieved. It is as if God the Father sent upon the earth a purse full of his mercy. This purse was burst open during the Lord’s passion to pour forth its hidden contents, the price of our redemption. It was only a small purse, but it was very full. As the Scriptures tell us: A little child has been given to us, but in him dwells all the fullness of the divine nature. The fullness of time brought with it the fullness of divinity. God’s Son came in the flesh so that mortal men could see and recognize God’s kindness. When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly remain hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond take on my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam’s—that is, not such as he had before his fall. How could he have shown his mercy more clearly than by taking on himself our condition? For our sake the Word of God became as grass. What better proof could he have given of his love? Scripture says: Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him; why does your heart go out to him? The incarnation teaches us how much God cares for us and what he thinks and feels about us. We should stop thinking of our own sufferings and remember what he has suffered. Let us think of all the Lord has done for us, and then we shall realize how his goodness appears through his humanity. The lesser he became through his human nature the greater was his goodness; the more he lowered himself for me, the dearer he is to me. The goodness and humanity of God our Savior have appeared, says the Apostle. Truly great and manifest are the goodness and humanity of God. He has given us a most wonderful proof of his goodness by adding humanity to his own divine nature”.
The second reason why we begin our new year with the Blessed Virgin Mary according to St. Pope Paul VI is that we learn from her about trust, obedience, and faith; “Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him. Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief, everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of his Gospel.
How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing; some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth. First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God. Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute”.
As we continue to walk with the Blessed Virgin Mary to believe and trust that the Lord will do the best for us during this new year, I think we need to reflect on this wonderful story by an unknown author to show that God speaks to us everyday but most of the time we fail to recognize him.
The Creator created people, gave them words for communication and thinking, settled them in the fertile valley at the foot of the mountains, gave them longevity and started to observe, how they will aspire to the development.
The time passed, but people did not develop. They did not go beyond their village and did not climb up the mountains. Their eyes did not look at the sky and they did not look in the Heart. So, they became old.
The Creator decided to find out, what was the matter. He became a man and came to them as a traveller. Before sunset people gathered at the square to talk with the traveller.
He described a life beyond the horizon and asked:
Do you want me to lead you there, and you will see how people live in these places?
Oh, they answered sadly, it is late, we are old.
Then come with me to the mountains to look at the world from the top!
Oh, they suspired, it is too late, we have no energy.
Look at the sky, the traveller said them, and I will tell you about the life in the Kingdom of Heaven!
They answered again:
It is late; our mind will not understand your story.
The traveller became sad. he decided to cheer people.
Let us sing a song! he said and was going to sing first, but people noticed that the sun went down.
It is late, they said, it is time to sleep, and went to their huts.
The traveller shouted them:
People, when life is continuous and infinite, it is not late for any achievements!
But they did not turn back.
Then the Creator told himself:
I will take away all words of limitation from people: late, not, impossible, far, high, hard, will not understand, and will place in their hearts the joy of infinity. Maybe they will perceive my Law: nothing is late because there is no end, there is only the beginning! He did so and waited for the morning: will people change, and will they go with him to the mountains?
Saint Athanasius, bishop, gives us the third reason to walk with Blessed Virgin Mary because through her the author of eternal life took flesh and dwelt among us so that we may have life and life in abundance. She is the mother of the Prince of Peace who intercedes for us that we can have peace in our world. “The Apostle tells us: The Word took to himself the sons of Abraham, and so had to be like his brothers in all things. He had then to take a body like ours. This explains the fact of Mary’s presence: she is to provide him with a body of his own, to be offered for our sake. Scripture records her giving birth and says: She wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Her breasts, which fed him, were called blessed. Sacrifice was offered because the child was her firstborn. Gabriel used careful and prudent language when he announced his birth. He did not speak of “what will be born in you” to avoid the impression that a body would be introduced into her womb from outside; he spoke of “what will be born from you” so that we might know by faith that her child originated within her and from her. By taking our nature and offering it in sacrifice, the Word was to destroy it completely and then invest it with his own nature, and so prompt the Apostle to say: This corruptible body must put on in corruption; this mortal body must put on immortality. This was not done in outward show only, as some have imagined. This is not so. Our Savior truly became man, and from this has followed the salvation of man as a whole. Our salvation is in no way fictitious, nor does it apply only to the body. The salvation of the whole man, that is, of soul and body, has really been achieved in the Word himself. What was born of Mary was therefore human by nature, in accordance with the inspired Scriptures, and the body of the Lord was a true body: It was a true body because it was the same as ours. Mary, you see, is our sister, for we are all born from Adam.
The words of Saint John: The Word was made flesh, bear the same meaning, as we may see from a similar turn of phrase in Saint Paul: Christ was made a curse for our sake. Man’s body has acquired something great through its communion and union with the Word. From being mortal, it has been made immortal; though it was a living body it has become a spiritual one; though it was made from the earth it has passed through the gates of heaven. Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is for ever perfect. In the Trinity we acknowledge one Godhead, and thus one God, the Father of the Word, is proclaimed in the Church”.
The fourth reason Holy Father Pope Francis gives us to walk with Blessed Virgin Mary is “Our Lady also helps us to understand God and Jesus well, to understand Jesus’ life well and God’s life, and to understand properly what the Lord is, what the Lord is like and, God is. In the readings of today’s Mass, three verbs find their fulfilment in the Mother of God: to bless, to be born and to find. To bless. Now, however, with the Son of God we receive not only words of blessing, but the blessing itself: Jesus is himself the blessing of the Father. In him, Saint Paul tells us, the Father blesses us “with every blessing” (Eph 1:3). Every time we open our hearts to Jesus, God’s blessing enters our lives.
Today we celebrate the Son of God, who is “blessed” by nature, who comes to us through his Mother, “blessed” by grace. In this way, Mary brings us God’s blessing. Wherever she is, Jesus comes to us. Therefore, we should welcome her like Saint Elizabeth who, immediately recognizing the blessing, cried out: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”. We repeat those words every time we recite the Hail Mary. In welcoming Mary, we receive a blessing, but we also learn to bless. Our Lady teaches us that blessings are received in order to be given. She, who was blessed, became a blessing for all those whom she met.
We are in this world not to die, but to give life. The holy Mother of God teaches us that the first step in giving life to those around us is to cherish it within ourselves. Today’s Gospel tells us that Mary “kept all these things in her heart”. What about ourselves? What are we called to find at the beginning of this year? It would be good to find time for someone. Time is a treasure that all of us possess, yet we guard it jealously, since we want to use it only for ourselves. Let us ask for the grace to find time for God and for our neighbour – for those who are alone or suffering, for those who need someone to listen and show concern for them. If we can find time to give, we will be amazed and filled with joy, like the shepherds. May Our Lady, who brought God into the world of time, help us to be generous with our time. Holy Mother of God, to you we consecrate this New Year. You, who know how to cherish things in your heart, care for us, bless our time, and teach us to find time for God and for others. With joy and confidence, we acclaim you: Holy Mother of God! Amen.
Let me finish my reflection with a story to reflect on our life as we begin the new year to learn about the meaning of our life and make the difference in the world.
A grey bearded old man and a young man were observing the blooming of a lotus, sitting on a shore of a silent pond, when a young man interrupted the silence.
“Master, why is the meaning of life is hidden from us? We meditate trying to understand the logic of things happening around us, we see separate parts and we are aware of their interrelations. But all of our efforts appear to be in vain when a new component appears, destroying all of the previous logical constructions.”
“The meaning of life,” the teacher reluctantly turned his eyes from the flower, “can only be understood by someone whose mind isn’t clouded with earthly troubles, wishes and passions. Only new-borns are close to that state. The essence of a new-born reminds us of a lotus, soaring on the unshakable stillness of the pond. The surface of their soul isn’t touched by the wind of aspirations, the rain of attachments, the snow of grievance, and the ice of loss. Their moistness isn’t dried by fears, malodorous bubbles of fear don’t take to the surface the slime from the bottom, their shores are empty, and the forest by the shore doesn’t defile the child’s clean water with fallen leaves, branches, and needles. And later the world appears, with all its meaningless worldliness. On the shores of the pond an impenetrable thicket of teachers grows up, mentors, friends, enemies, lovers, children, relatives. Constantly, the surface of the water becomes inseparable from the thick garbage on the shore. Every word, every moral, every kiss, every punch or kindness, our influence disturbs the untouched soul of a child, making him to grow up and go further and further from the understanding of the meaning of life.”
“But we can’t get rid of all of this,” the student shouted out heatedly. “We are people! Our life consists of the course of these actions, this coil, the boiling of these passions and wishes! Or are you asking people to become ferns?!!”
“You’ve understood everything right, my boy,” a light smile touched the lips of the old man. “You want to search for the meaning of life? Search for it. But to do that, you will need to refuse every carnal wish, attachment and feeling, become the grass, the fern, go live in the temple, become a hermit, rip all of the ties that join you with worldly troubles and passions, and then, possibly, you will be able to go back to the beginning. But what all of this is for? Is the search worth it? Ask yourself this question and if the answer will be negative, remain the person between the people.”
The teacher turned his eyes towards the lotus again and finished, “And about the meaning of life you will always be able to talk with friends, while sitting in the shade of your home terrace, listening to the cheerful laughter of children, and drinking green aroma tea, that your loving wife brings you.”
Other Sermons In This Series
September 02, 2022
April 14, 2022
March 10, 2023