We all awake with the hope that only comes from our Risen Lord! Now some of us may be experiencing hard times; some may be experiencing normal times! Some may be feeling down; some struggling. Some of us are feeling unsure of the moment; or of the future.
Today, though, the Church cries out; that In Jesus Christ there is hope. In letting Christ in, there is peace, there is hope!
Let us open wide our hearts, and let in the King of Glory!!
We begin a new year, it is mixed with both anticipation and fear, beginnings and endings. For us Catholics, we end this year with the sad news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He had an definite affect on the Catholic Church, before he became Pope, during his Papacy, and afterwards; and on the world around us.
We are beginning a new year. Liturgically, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We are reflecting on the important role of Mary in the salvation of humanity. We celebrate her courage to say yes, her willingness to say yes to bearing the child who would be the savior of the world. She was willing to become Mother of God the Son.
For that reason, for that courage, for that love that she had for God, for that love she had for all humanity; she is remembered and celebrated by Catholics and other Christians.
But I would challenge us to see Mary as a real human person. I am sometimes concerned, afraid that we treat Mary and our other saints, as characters in a show, play, movie and not as a real person. And Mary was a real human person. It was her courage and her love for God that allowed her to say response to the angel’s declaration, the Annunciation: “ Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1)
She should courage and strength, making that journey with Joseph to Bethlehem; and finding out that they had to stay in stable. She had the courage and the strength to give birth to the baby who would soon be named Jesus.
We have little information on what life was like for this little family when they finally were able to return to Nazareth. How often did she reflect on what had happened to her, her little child and her husband. Today’s gospel mentioned that she kept all that she experienced in her heart, reflecting on them, what they meant for her and for her son. We know that she cared for her neighbors, friends and relatives. She and Jesus were invited to a wedding, what the relationship they had with the wedding party, we do not know; but it was there that she asked Jesus to come to the aid of the bridegroom with their wine shortage. And a son cannot say “no,” to his mother.
Mary was present at her Son’s suffering and death on the cross. She must have mourned deeply over witnessing that sight. In our reflections on Mary, we need to remind ourselves that she was as human as the rest of us. That she experienced great joy, great hope; as well as great pain, and great sorrow. And it is these experiences that makes her a good advocate for us before God. So we can turn to her in our need:
“Hail holy Queen, mother of mercy, Our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you we do cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs; mourning and weeping in valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”
Your are holy, Lord, the only God, and your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High, You are almighty. You, holy Father, are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all good. You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love, You are wisdom, You are humility, You are endurance. You are rest, You are peace. You are joy and gladness. You are justice and moderation. You are all our riches, And you suffice for us.
You are beauty. You are gentleness. You are our protector, You are our guardian and defender. You are courage. You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, Our great consolation. You are our eternal life, Great and wonderful Lord, God almighty, Merciful Saviour.
“My child, do not mock the life of the poor; do not keep needy eyes waiting.
Give a hearing to the poor, and return their greeting with deference; Deliver the oppressed from their oppressors; right judgment should not be repugnant to you. Be like a father to orphans, and take the place of a husband to widows. Then God will call you his child, and he will be merciful to you and deliver you from the pit.” Book of Sirach 4: 1, 8-10
Came across this Scripture passage in a prayer book I have. It seems appropriate for our present times. With high inflation, just about everyone is feeling the pinch when it comes to purchasing the necessities of life. But we cannot forget, that the poor, the homeless, and the refugee feels it more deeply.
So we are called to dig deeper into our pockets. And not just our own pockets, but our communities pockets. Find the resources needed, to help all of our brothers and sisters! And if we give with an open heart, God will be there for, to support us; to embrace in love.
There are moments in history that take place near or on rivers. In ancient times, the Roman general Caesar, took his legions across the river Rubicon, challenging the authority of the Roman Senate; and won. The Roman Republic became eventually the Roman Empire! On December 25, 1776, General George Washington took his rag tag army across the Delaware River, and attacked the British Hessian force in Trenton, NJ, the following morning. His victory at that battle saved the Continental Army from falling apart, and laid the groundwork for ultimate victory. And then there is the River Jordan. In ancient times, twelve tribes, after wandering in the desert together, crossed the Jordan, and were transformed into a united people. And during the Roman occupation, there was John the Baptist, who on the shores of the Jordan River, was proclaiming that the hoped for Messiah was coming, that now was the time for repentance, a time for change. And the symbol for that was to be bathed in the River, to be washed clean. And there was a growing expectation that the Messiah was coming soon. And then one day, a man from Nazareth arrived on Jordan’s shore, and John recognized him, knew who he was; and John poured the waters of the Jordan over him. And Jesus, saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him, heard his Father voice acknowledging him, “You are my beloved Son.” And the journey began, the work of proclaiming the Good News began.
And the work of salvation continues, Jesus continues the work through us who have also been baptized. On the day of our own baptism, the wound we suffered from Original Sin was healed; we were given new life as adopted children of God; we were all joined together in the Body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters, living together in a holy community that is the Church. We all share in it’s mission, given to us by Jesus, to proclaim the Good News, by our words, our actions; and by the example of our own lives; we are all called to give example to others what it means to be a follower of Christ, by the way we ourselves struggle with our faith; how we, as people of faith, relate to others; our families; friends and neighbors, to strangers, the homeless; the disenfranchised in our society; and to people that are not very nice. When I read in Isaiah; when the Lord, through the prophet, declares “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind,…” I feel that it is not just the physically blind we are called to open, but also those whose eyes are blinded by prejudice and hatred. To free those who prisoners of greed and selfishness. And to help those who live in the darkness of despair and hopelessness.
That is not to say to that there will not be times when we ourselves may be tempted to give into selfishness, anger, and despair. It is then we should turn to prayer, and the sacraments; namely confession, penance; and the Eucharist, where in we received Jesus Christ through Holy Communion, and are healed and strengthened by his Presence. It is by how we struggle with our own weaknesses and sins; and work to overcome them that we can be at our most prophetic. Our own baptism is the beginning for each of our own journey of faith. That journey continues, for each of us, each with our own calling, our own approach, to living the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. May the Lord be with all of us on this journey.