The New Year - 2013 (Year C)(SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD)
First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27 Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7 Gospel Reading: Luke:16-21
"A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR.”
There is a story told of a certain Mr. Brown who taught swimming and diving for a number of years. Among his trainees there was 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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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,” Mr. 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,” Mr. 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? It is said, 'Well begun is half done,' and it is our head that gives a start. 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. We require therefore, to keep our head right and give our life a proper direction right in the beginning, so that the rest of it will be all right. Surely, God understands our distress and He ever seeks to make us new persons so that we can handle our distress more effectively and become more successful and happy in our lives.
Today is 1st January and we stand on the threshold of a “New Year” and a “New Beginning.” Here we are in a month named after the Roman god Janus, an appropriate personification of the start of the New Year. The one special thing about the god Janus is he is two-faced. He has a face looking to the past and a face looking to the future at the same time. That is why the god Janus became the symbol of New Year’s where, just as we are today, we look at the past and give thanks for that. We look to the future and gather our hopes for that.
So, today as we get rid of an old year and look forward to a new one, we all try to be a little like Janus. This is indeed a time to reflect and think about what the past year that has just ended has brought and what the new year lying right ahead of us could bring. So, the beginning of a new year, as we put our heads into it, provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the special gift of time and demands that we keep our heads straight:
We recall the events of the previous year and express our gratitude to God for all the good things that have happened, all the while being aware that there have also been sad and painful experiences and perhaps sinful realities for which we feel sorry, and also the missed opportunities for which we regret. It is a time to reflect, to stop and analyze, to take stock of our priorities, values, pursuits, and goals. Through soul searching questions we find that a review of the past year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the new year.
But most of all we joyfully celebrate the promise of a new set of months with new opportunities and happiness, and we try to be hopeful in spite of uncertainties and unknown threats lying ahead. Today therefore, is a day to pray for God's blessings upon each one of us as we proceed in the new year with fresh resolutions. Yes, it is God's blessing we all need on this first day of the new year. In the First Reading of today, we have an example of Levitical blessing, which Moses instructs his brother Aron:
"The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!"
This blessing has passed the test of time. Originating with the chosen people, this blessing has been pronounced for three millennia and we can still employ this whenever we want to pray for God's blessing. What a beautiful thing it is to have God's blessing to go forward with "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR.”
The Catholic Church also celebrates "World Day of Peace" on the 1st of January. On this day our Holy Father Pope Benedict XIII has asked us to pray for peace in the world and the theme he has chosen for the Year 2013 celebration is "Blessed are the peacemakers."
This year would also mark the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII's encyclical, "Pacem in Terris" (Peace on Earth). Pope John's encyclical affirmed the essential place of human dignity and human freedom in the effort to build a peaceful society, dedicated to promoting common good. The late Pope's plea for peace, for respect of human dignity and freedom, and more basically, for respect for what is right and good, holds out ' a message of hope to a world that is hungry for it, a message that can resonate with people of all beliefs and none, because its truth is accessible to all.'
The past year has been one of many events that marred the peace of the world - social injustices, terrorist activities, wars, revolutions, natural disasters like earthquakes, floods etc. just to mention a few of them. There are also threats to religious liberty and other basic rights, the global financial crisis and crises in politics and education signal a 'worrying crisis of democracy.' Moreover, we live in a world where families and life itself are threatened and not infrequently fragmented. We wonder, and sometimes we worry – what the new year is going to bring about! All we can do is to place our full trust in God during our times of problems and crises and pray for his blessing of peace.
Today, as we also celebrate “World Peace Day,” the proposed theme - “Blessed are the peacemakers,” echos in our minds and hearts. We are therefore called to begin the New Year by being a peacemaker. But we must first make peace with our past and the relationships that have been broken through unforgiveness in order to give ourselves "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR.”
The 1st of January is also the culmination of the octave of Christmas when we celebrate the “Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.” Exactly a week back we celebrated with great joy the feast of Christmas, commemorating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary and reflected upon the mystery of the Incarnation, i.e. God taking the form of a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. The life of Jesus begins with Mary. Therefore, it is appropriate that we begin the New Year with a Feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Since Mary is the Mother of God she is the mother of joy, joy to the world. So the traditional greeting on this first day of the New Year is one of joy: “Happy New Year!”
Today's special feast affirms that the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God and shows the importance of her role in the mystery of our salvation. This Catholic Dogma finds its origin from the passage found in the Gospel of Luke. After the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Upon her arrival, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit expressed her joy at the arrival of “the Mother of God.”
In 431 A.D, the Council of Ephesus affirmed 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. Twenty years later the Council of Chalcedon re-affirmed that the Motherhood of Mary was a truthful dogma and an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. Her Motherhood began when the eternal God entered human history. The second Divine person of the Trinity, the Word, took on a human nature in the womb of Mary.
In the Second Reading, through his letter to Galatians, Saint Paul tells us that we have become God's adopted daughters and sons. Through Jesus' Spirit, we are made God's own children and heirs of all that God has promised. God is "Abba," like a wonderful parent who is absolutely crazy about us. In a special way, Jesus has given us Mary to be our mother, too. So, Mary is not only Jesus' mother, but she is our mother too and she cares for us and for all of God's family with the same love she had for Jesus. So, on this New Year Day, let us turn to Mary, our mother, with all our needs and hopes, confident that she will never fail us and give "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR.”
To conclude, recalling the Gospel Reading of today, it has a special message for us as we hang up the new calendar with mixed feelings. The fresh New Year is in some way like the infant Jesus "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Both the new year and the new child seem so vulnerable but the almighty power of God is hidden in the new year, just as it is in the tiny infant. God is fully prepared to wrap our fragile lives and hopes in the warm blanket of his ever present and constant love. With such assurance, we can face the future with generous hope and with light hearts. For we too need to realize that the angels who spoke to the shepherds are speaking to us also when they say, "This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Let us then glorify and praise God, as the shepherds did, for his gift of the New Year and enter into it with our head straight with "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR.”
Wish you all a Very Happy New Year!