It’s been hard to escape the number of people who are obviously feeling a lot of negative emotions from a lot of unprecedented and difficult challenges we could never have imagined a year ago…  summed up with saying“I can’t wait for this year to be over.”  A friend on the phone the other night said that his grandparents used to open the door at midnight to make sure the previous year was “out” – when I jokingly asked “Were they witches?  I thought they were Irish Catholics” he said “I don’t know, all I know is I’m opening every door, window in the house this New Year’s.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Thanks so much for stopping by to read this, my homily for MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD January 1, 2021. and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim

There’s an understandable amount of frustration that we’re all feeling at the end of 2020.  And the desire to enter into a new calendar year more hopeful is admirable.  Which is why our being here is, (I’m going to keep saying this hoping this sticks) essential.

It’s naïve  to think that as we flip the calendar tomorrow that everything will magically get better.  That the pandemic will end, the anxiety will disappear, the division and tensions people are feeling globally or even in their own families will all be healed.  Those are good things to pray for, work towards, but faith reminds us that God will bring this about as we align ourselves to Him (because God knows, we sure can’t on our own…)

On this the 7th/8th day of Christmas, we are reminded of another gift that He has given us.  Which is the focus for this Mass as we celebrate not the end of a calendar year but Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother.  She is a gift for us especially New Years Day and everyday that follows to help guide us.  Think back to her story:

One day Mary’s getting visits from angels, she’s pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, she’s running with her skeptical-at-first husband who’s trying to protect them from people trying to kill this Newborn king.  To put it mildly, Mary’s life was disrupted.  It was nothing she could have anticipated or planned for and she was afraid at times.  It was in a moment of fear that an angel spoke to her to tell her “Do Not Be Afraid” –

Just like the angels a week ago told the Shepherds at the birth of Jesus and seeing this spectacular sights in the middle of the night – “Do Not Be Afraid”

Why?  For Mary, the angel was telling her that this person interrupting or coming into her life who she will be mother to is Jesus.  It didn’t remove the obstacles, it didn’t give her superhuman powers to face all the awful things around her.  What it did was make her tap into the deepest resources of her heart and soul to see that she was created by God, loved by God and now He was drawing ever nearer to make her – (and the Good news is that is true for each and everyone of us — know that definitively and clearly).   Mary drew on her faith, and her faith blossomed in a dynamic way that she, the mother would one day be obedient to her child.  Mary, the mother of God would become one of the purest and best disciples of Jesus.   We need her example and her prayers as we revisit the year that is ending and prepare to enter into this New Year.  With the right focus and encouragement.

Pope Benedict on New Years Eve a few years ago, gathered for a prayer and explained what that should be:  However the year went, whether it was easy or difficult, barren or fruitful, let us give thanks to God…[because] in spite of all  – good exists in the world and that this good is bound to win – thanks be to God, the God of Jesus Christ, who was born, died and rose again.  At times of course it is hard to understand this profound reality, because evil is noisier than goodness; an atrocious murder, widespread violence, grave forms of injustice hit the headlines; whereas acts of love and service, the daily effort sustained with fidelity and patience are often left in the dark, they pass unnoticed. For this reason too, we cannot stop at reading the news if we wish to understand the world and life; we must be able to pause in silence, in meditation, in calm, prolonged reflection; we must know how to stop and think. In this way our mind can find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life, it can penetrate the events that occur in our life and in the world and can attain that wisdom which makes it possible to see things with new eyes. 

May we enter 2021, with those new eyes – fixed on Jesus Christ… with ears attentive to Mary, the mother of Jesus’ testimony, who repeats those words: Do Not Be Afraid.  She reminds us that the true Hope and answers we seek is in our allowing her son Jesus to enter in more deeply into our lives.  With Him at the center, He who makes all things new, will make this New Year truly blessed.