Holy Mother of God – January 1, 2023
Number 6: 22-27; Galatians 4: 4-7; Luke 2: 16-21
Theme: “Mary Kept All These Things,
Reflecting on Them in her Heart.”
The year 2022 is
over. As the new year dawns, let us realize all the blessings that we have been
given in our families and in our Church. In my 2022 pastoral Christmas letter
to each of you, I expressed my gratitude to God and each of you for the tremendous
things that we accomplished together in our parish Saint Bartholomew/Saint
Augustine despite all difficulties that we faced throughout the last year 2022.
Our Church did great in terms of the liturgy of the Mass, financial support,
and other Church activities. Through
all that we accomplished during this year (prayer life, attendance of
the Mass, Bible Study, Revivals, religious education; the active participation
of the Men Club, Ladies of Altar Society, Youth, and Young Adult Ministry
(YAM); the effort of our choir and musicians, ushers/security, lectors, altar
servers, Maintenance, Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils, Office Staff, and
all the different ministries and commissions) together, we have built up a strong relationship with God and
each other. I thank you so much for this tremendous fulfillment. I am proud and
blessed to be your pastor. Now, let us look forward to this new year 2023.
How it is
beautiful to commence each new year with the celebration of the feast day of
Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We call her “Mother of God”, Theotokos, because
she is the Mother of Jesus. And since Jesus is both God and Man, the Holy
Mother deserves the title of “Mother of God” just as any mother whose son is a president
of a country, or a medical doctor deserves the title of “mother of a president”
or “mother of a medical doctor”.
readings that we heard put us in the perspective of looking forward to new
beginnings and praying that this year 2023 be better than the last. Our first
reading tells us that the people of Israel were looking forward to a new
beginning in the promised land when Aaron and his sons prayed to God asking for
blessings, grace, and peace upon them. In today’s Gospel, the shepherds hurried
up to Bethlehem to visit the Newborn Jesus because they realized that with him
a new beginning was taking place. The Blessed Mary kept in her heart her first experiences
of being the Mother of God and reflected on them. Saint Paul, in our second
reading, reassures us that Jesus will ransom us who were under the law and now
we receive adoption as sons and daughters of God. Let us look forward to our
new beginning in this new year being confident that the Holy Mother of God and
our Mother will intercede for us to her Son, Jesus, asking him for all the blessings
that she, as our Mother, knows that we will need throughout this new year 2023.
Today’s Gospel passage
narrates to us the story of the nativity of our Lord. in the context of today’s
feast, we are going to focus on the figure of Blessed Mary. The evangelist Luke
informs us that after she received the message of the angel of the Lord through
the shepherds who came to visit her child, Mary kept “these things, reflecting
on them in her heart.” This attitude of Mary teaches us a couple of lessons
that we need to learn and so imitate her. First, Mary is the first Christian contemplative.
She kept in her heart all the events in relation to her vocation and meditated
on them. These events started with her own Immaculate Conception, continued
with the story of her vocation, how the angel of the Lord announced to her the
plan of God to be the mother of his son, and the divine conception and birth of
her son Jesus, to this message of awe that the shepherds revealed to her in
today’s Gospel passage. Each person has a specific history of his/her vocation.
God created each of us with a special purpose. Blessed Mary is teaching us to
become aware of our call and “keep in our hearts” all the experiences that we
have in our one-on-one relationship with God. “Keeping them in our heart” means
not forgetting or ignoring them but reflecting and meditating on them every
day. Virgin Mary teaches us how to be contemplative and prayerful Christians.
lesson that we learn from the Holy Mother of God is her total obedience to God.
She is the model of obedience for us. Throughout his initial chapters, Saint
Luke shows how Mary listens completely to God’s message through the angel and
how she gives herself over to God’s will. Her response to the angel of the Lord:
“May it be done to me according to your word” explains her total surrender to
God’s will. (Luke 1: 38). Obedience is a virtue that many people struggle with
today. Children (especially teenagers) are struggling to obey their parents and
many Christians are struggling to obey God’s commandments and Church’s
precepts. Obedience implies responsibility. When Blessed Mary obeyed God, she
took the responsibility of fulfilling the mission of raising and protecting
Jesus. She stayed faithful to the Word of God. Obedience to God defines our
faith in God. To obey God is to do his will, and to do his will means to take
our responsibilities as Christians. We are called to obey God as our model
Virgin Mary did.
new year, we are called to become aware of our call, not to ignore or forget
the experience that we have with God in our personal experience with him but
rather meditate on them every day. Once we become aware of our mission in this
world, then we stay obedient to God and surrender ourselves totally to him as
the Holy Mother of God did.
Saint Paul, in
our second reading, confirms that with the birth of Jesus Christ, God has given
us everything. In the Lord Jesus, God has adopted us as his sons and daughters.
Therefore, we are no longer a slave of
sins nor subjected to evil. We can now call God “Abba” or “Daddy”. Since God is
our “Daddy”, we can ask him for blessings that we need for this new year as the
people of Israel did in our first reading. Note that the book of Numbers that
we heard in our first reading details the beginning of the chosen people in the
Promised Land. The people requested God’s blessing as they started their new
life in a new land. Notice how this book emphasizes the role of blessing people
as the role of priests of the descendants of Aaron. The priest’s duty is
extended from offering sacrifices to blessing and strengthening the people. Likewise,
at the end of this Mass, I, your pastor, through the ministry of the Church, am
going to bless you and ask God for peace, joy, happiness, healing, and all
graces that you, your families, and our Church community need throughout this
new year 2023. I am going to use the same formula of blessing that Aaron and
his sons used in our first reading while blessing their people. Notice, this blessing
formula invokes the name of the Lord over the people three times. First, God’s
blessing is for keeping us as God’s possession. Second, it is for us to
experience the graciousness of God’s face shining upon us. And third, the
blessing is for God’s kindness and peace that we need.
at the end of the Mass.
The Lord bless
you and Keep you! Amen.
The Lord let his
face shine upon you and be gracious to you! Amen.
The Lord look
upon you kindly and give you peace! Amen.
And may almighty
God bless you and your families, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
New Year 2023!
Leon Ngandu, SVD