Probably one of the most difficult things, hardest things, challenging things for us as human beings to do in life is “letting go” of old hurts.   How often have we heard someone say, or even said ourselves, “What you did to me – to my family, to my friends – I cannot forgive that or forget …” Oftentimes, those things aren’t over arbitrary squabbles… they come from a place of real pain and hurt.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read this homily for the SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD-January 1, 2024.  I appreciate your sharing this 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- Father Jim

When we think about it, this isn’t just a challenge 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 efficient our memory is.  Individually or collectively, memories can go back decades, even centuries, old and looking for revenge.

The thing is, the anger, the bitterness, the vile 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 in a sense, we allow it to change who we are.

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

Because even though you go past Shopping Centers and see Christmas items reduced to 75% off Valentine’s Day displays popping up as Christmas trees are discarded, and Christmas music disappears from the 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 right in the middle of this ongoing celebration, as we reflect on his humble, meager beginnings, our gaze today goes to Mary, the Mother of God.    In this feast, one of the lines that jump out from the Gospel is that all of these amazing things that occurred in the birth of Jesus that we’ve been celebrating  – St. Luke says very simply and profoundly – Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  

It was the 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 this guy Joseph can do is find this smelly place where animals are kept for her firstborn child to be born.

– She’s not wondering who will get even with those who worked with diabolical fervor to try to destroy this child (and killed all those innocent babies in the attempt to do so).

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

What about you and I?  Here on 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?)  Are we willing to let go of whatever it is that hurts, that angers, that we continue to feed?

Mary, the Mother of God – and our mother give 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 negativity to have any more space in our lives.  To not bring those burdens with us into this new year of 2024.    Mary, our Mother, challenges us not to think about making that type of move but to do it… today.     In making her example our reality, we find that we can truly give birth to Christ in our lives, in our families, in our workplaces, in our world…and not simply say it, but truly have a Happy New Year.