Friday, January 01, 2016

Octave of Christmas word, 01 Jan 16

Relationship, Birth, Remembering
 Mary, Mother of God: Octave of Christmas C (01 Jan 2016)
Nm 6. 22-27; Ps 67; Gal 4. 4-7; Lk 2. 16-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When we look at early liturgies in the church we find celebrating the motherhood of God was the primary and only festival of Mary native to Rome.1 This liturgy saw other themes as the feast spread and time progressed. The Second Vatican Council and the recent revision of the Roman Missal restored the original focus. Our scriptures offer us some helps to restore us and move us forward into a new year. Here are three helps.

The reading from the Book of Numbers closed with the phrases: invoke [the Lord’s] name upon the Israelites and [the Lord] will bless them. For any of them to know some-one’s name meant a person was no stranger; they enjoyed a relationship. Wanting to know someone’s name recurs in scripture. When Jacob dreamed of a heavenly visitor, Jacob wanted to know the visitor’s name.2 When God sent Moses to free his people, Moses need to know the name of the One who sent him.3 With us its different: if I told you a stranger wants to lead you home, you’d be more than skeptical.

Giving a name is more sacred than knowing one. Think of parents choosing names for their children. Think of Mary and Joseph doing it for their son. Each was told name him Jesus.4 As we recall Mary today we can ask her to intercede for us truly to know ourselves as God creates us and let God enter our freedom. In each one’s freedom relationships begin and continue to grow life-giving. Our triune God desires us to look forward in the new year to deeper, more life-giving relationships with Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

A second help is Mary’s willingness. Mary’s willingness  allowed God into her freedom; that makes her a hinge: the hinge of our redemption. We call the Nativity of Jesus, the Word of God become flesh for us, the beginnings of our redemption.5 Jesus’ birth makes us heirs to God’s life in Jesus by their Spirit. His birth revolves around Mary. She gave birth to God in our humanity; our vocation is to give birth to God. We give birth to God when we practice our faith. The faith we practice is Jesus’ faith, his relationship with God, whom he called his Abba, Father.

It is possible to live Jesus’ faith and make it ours because Jesus gives his Spirit to all who accept him. That summarized what St. Paul preached in Galatia. He preached Jesus to them. They had accepted Jesus and received his Spirit.6 Then they rejected their experience! Paul wrote them to help them accept Jesus again.

We may not reject our experience of Jesus’ Spirit; we do get distracted from it. The ways of distraction are many: some may be our choosing; others may be ways our world suffers; still others may be ways our culture clamors for our attention. Our eyes on Mary offer us a third help: All who heard…what had been told them…about this child…by the shepherds…were amazed ….Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Mary’s reflective attitude is that help.

She and Joseph and their child were not in glorious circumstances; yet, she returned in her mind to the promise of her son, his birth and on the first ways God was making good on God’s promise. If anyone wants to make a Catholic resolution for 2016, Mary modeled it: revisit your experiences of Jesus’ spirited love and faith guiding you and promising to accompany you each moment of the new year. Resolve to live out of your relationship with him.

Relationship, birth, daily remembering more than high-light Mary’s motherhood. To deepen our relationship with our triune God; to give birth to Jesus by lively faith; and daily to remember how Jesus graces us with his Spirit will keep us close to Jesus and make us more eloquent messengers of his good news in 2016.

  1. Fr. Kevin Irwin, Sunday Worship: A Planning Guide to Celebration. New York: Pueblo, 1983, p. 52.
  2. Genesis 32.30.
  3. Exodus 3.13.
  4. Joseph in Matthew’s gospel; Mary in Luke’s.
  5. Prayer after Communion, Vigil Mass of Christmas, Roman Missal.
  6. Galatians 3.1-5.

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