One of the hardest things for us as human beings to do in life can be letting go of old hurts.   How often have we heard someone say, or even said ourselves “What you did to me and my family, or my friends I cannot forgive or forget …”   Usually those things aren’t over arbitrary squabbles… they come from a place of real pain and hurt.  And this challenge isn’t just on a person-to-person level.   With some distance and objectivity, sometimes you can see how groups of people, even countries can hold onto past grievances with the desire that “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow… but someday, they  will pay for this.”    When it comes to our being wronged, it is amazing how memories can go back decades, even centuries, looking for revenge.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD – January 1, 2023, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim

The anger, the bitterness, the vileness that we can allow ourselves to hold onto, which at first is something unpleasant;  in time becomes part of who we are and in a sense, we grow comfortable with it and allow it to change who we are.

Rather than trying to conceive of another “new years resolution” the scriptures today invite us to look at New Year’s Day and ask ourselves an important question.  What is it that we’re holding onto in our hearts?

Because, even though as you go passed Malls and see Christmas items reduced to 75% off and Valentine’s Day displays popping up – as trees are discarded and Christmas music disappears from airwaves, the Church is still basking in the wonder of this Feast.  We are still trying to unpack the wonder of the magnitude of this great Christmas gift God the Father has bestowed on us -the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  And in the midst of this time where we contemplate His humble, meager beginnings, our gaze today goes to Mary, the Mother of God.  And in this feast, one of the lines that jump out from the Gospel is that all of these Amazing things that have been occurring in the birth of Jesus that we’ve been celebrating  – we just heard that Mary kept all these things in her heart.

Notice that it was these joyous, miraculous wondrous things she kept in her heart.  There’s no mention of her remembering the check-in guy at the Inn who wouldn’t let a pregnant woman ready to give birth a place to stay for the night.  We don’t hear Mary complaining that the best that Joseph was able to do is find this smelly place where animals are kept for her child to be born.  She’s not wondering who will get even with those who worked with diabolical fervor in trying to kill the Baby Jesus (and killed thousands of other innocents in their attempt to do so).

No – Mary treasures the amazing things – she allows those memories to fill her heart which leaves no room for disappointments, waves of anger, and hurts.  With that, Mary’s soul simply, beautifully, and eternally glorifies and praises God.

What about you and me?  Here in this New Year, we have yet another opportunity, another chance to start over again (it seems we get so many of them, doesn’t it?)  Perhaps we’re being encouraged to let go of whatever it is that hurts, that angers, that we continue to feed?  Mary, the Mother of God – and our mother gives us a parental example, a pattern to follow which can change our entire outlook of the year that has passed and all that is to come:  To treasure, to embrace, to keep in our hearts all of the glorious ways our God is actively blessing us. In doing that, we are called to forgive those who have “sinned” against us and not allow that to have any more space in our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI, who died this morning, in his New Year’s homily in 2011 reminded us of the importance of this task.  He said:  Reflecting on our life experience, we are continually astonished by how ultimately short and ephemeral life is. So we often find ourselves asking: what meaning can we give to our days? What meaning, in particular, can we give to the days of toil and grief? This is a question that permeates history, indeed it runs through the heart of every generation and every individual. But there is an answer: it is written on the face of a Child who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago and is today the Living One, risen forever from the dead. From within the fabric of humanity, rent asunder by so much injustice, wickedness, and violence, there bursts forth in an unforeseen way the joyful and liberating novelty of Christ our Saviour, who leads us to contemplate the goodness and tenderness of God through the mystery of his Incarnation and Birth.

          May we follow Mary the Mother of God’s example and all that mystery to be treasured and fill our hearts. In making her example  our reality we find Christmas is renewed as we can truly give birth to Christ in our lives, in our families, in our workplace, and in our world…