Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sunday word, 01 Jan 17

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (01 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Relationship, Birth, Remembering
A look at liturgies of the early Roman church help us appreciate ours today. Rome’s primary and only festival of Mary native to it was the motherhood of God.1 This liturgy absorbed 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. To know someone’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 so 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 willingly  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 redemption5; and the beginnings of grace.6 Jesus’ birth makes us heirs to God’s life in Jesus by Holy 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 as 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.7 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; the ways our world suffers may distract us; so, too, the 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 2017, 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. With each revisiting resolve to live out of your relationship with him.

Relationship, birth, daily remembering more than highlight 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 2017.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for you; thank him for dying and rising for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace of patient reliance on him throughout this year.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words were the fruit of his parents’ teaching and example. Praying them continues to shape us as his disciples today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  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. Prayer Over the Offerings today’s.
  7. Galatians 3.1-5.

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