The Visit of the Shepherds
The liturgy of January 1 deals with three important and interrelated themes: the New Year; Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace.
New Year. If you can recall what had happened last night, many of us met the New Year with a bang. So many fireworks were freed in the sky just to meet the New Year. But instead of doing this, let’s begin right by thanking the Good Lord for another year through a prayer. Prayer is not only saying prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Rosary and others but prayer also means meditating and contemplating in silence the mystery of God’s love for each one of us. Lust like what Mary did in today’s gospel of what she heard from the shepherds, she kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. Today’s gospel tells us that the name “Jesus” was given to her Son. Jesus means ‘Yahweh is salvation.’ The only reason for His coming into the world was to bring salvation. The only person in the whole world whom we could entrust ourselves at the beginning of this year is Jesus who became man for our salvation. Also Father Patrick Payton always reminded us that a family that prays together stays together. And a world at prayer is a world at peace. If all Filipino people will discover once again the power of praying together, we can always sustain in us God’s presence.
Mary, Mother of God. It is fitting that the Church should choose January 1 as the day on which to celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. It is because I personally believe that this special feast is very appropriate for the start of a new day, a new year and a new thousand years. This feast echoes that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother. This feast echoes, “Through Mary to Jesus!” It also echoes God’s divine progressive plan of salvation through the Virgin Mary.
Today, I would like to tell you about the origin of this very special feast of quoting a priest who gave a homily about this dogma of our faith, Mary the Mother of God. While not all Christians accept that Mary is the Mother of God, we Catholics believe it to be so. We base our faith in this dogma on the words of St. Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary. 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, “and why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?’ (Luke 1:43). Through Elizabeth who was full of the Holy Spirit, it was acclaimed that Mary was the Mother of God.
In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus affirmed that Mary was truly Mother of God because ‘according to the flesh’ she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God from the first moment of His conception. The words that they used to affirm this truth are: “We confess, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in His Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the virgin, according to His humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore, we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the Holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became Man from His very conception united to Himself the temple He took from her.”
Twenty years later, in 451 AD at the Council of Chalcedon, it was affirmed that the Motherhood of Mary was a truthful dogma and an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. The council based its proclamation on the truth that, ‘the birth of flesh reveals human nature; (while the) birth from a virgin is a proof of divine power.”
World Day of Prayer for Peace. Many of us enter this New Year with anxiety. There are continuous uncertainties concerning world peace and there remains the escalating threat of terrorism. There are so many uncertainties in our individual lives. Financial problems, health problems, marital problems and other worries overshadow the lives of many of us.
Peace is not just the absence of war and conflict. It indicates the fullness of God’s gifts and blessings and the tranquility of the human heart. Saint Augustine has a beautiful definition of peace. According to him, peace means, “serenity of the mind, simplicity of the heart and tranquility of the soul.” We suffer loss of serenity of mind when we exaggerate our fears, when we worry too much. Somebody once said that 80 percent of the things we worry about never happens and 15 percent of the misfortunes we worry about don’t take place as seriously as expected. And because we fret and worry so much, we fail to achieve peace of mind.
We loss simplicity of the hearts if let our emotions run wild. We get angry, we get envious and others. Our negative thoughts get the better part of us. Simplicity of heart also means contentment. We have to simplify our wants and our needs.
Tranquility of the souls is lost if we have a life which is spiritually messy. This happens when there is sin in our lives and we are full of guilt. A Happy and a Blessed New Year to all of us. Through it all, let us remember the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Guadalupe, Mexico: “I am here, I’m your mother. Do not fear I am near!”
See Today’s Readings: Year B