Mary, the Holy Mother of God – January 1, 2023

 

Mary, the 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”.

The Scripture 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.

The second 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.

Throughout this 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.  

Final blessing 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.

 

Happy New Year 2023!

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

 

 

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