Posted by: matt25 | December 31, 2011

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

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Follow the example of Mary, receive, give, and be living blessings.

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One year ends and another begins.

How many of you have or plan to make at least one New Year’s resolution?

I decided to be more practical this time in picking a resolution for myself.  In the past I have said things like, I’m going to lose 30 pounds by the 4th of July, which hasn’t really worked too well for me.  So, this year I resolve to grow a foot and a half taller.  Then I will be the right weight for my height and not have to lose anything!  Why are you laughing?  Don’t you think that will work?  Of course, you are right and I suppose I will have to revisit that.

For many of the people we know Christmas is over.  It is time to move on to the next event, which is of course to celebrate the New Year.  We who are Catholics have a different approach.  We continue to celebrate the season of Christmas, and through the lens of Christmas, we celebrate the New Year.

Underneath the culture’s rituals of watching the ball drop, noisemakers, and midnight kisses with the one we love most… lies a deeper reality of great importance.  That reality is that our lives are in need of continual renewal.  The reason we need this renewal is that within ourselves, at the very core of our being, in our hearts where the Spirit of the Son who cries out “Abba” “Daddy” lives, we know that we fall short of the vision that we have for our lives.

What is that vision?  Is it a vague idea, which is mostly subconscious at this point, or is it in sharper focus because you have spent time trying to figure it out so that you can make the appropriate adjustments?  Perhaps there is some lesson to be learned from Mary the Mother of God, which will be of value.  Let’s review her year up to the point of today’s Gospel reading.

~ She was betrothed but agreed to put herself into a situation that would put her marriage and her very life at risk.

~ When visiting her older, barren, yet somehow pregnant anyway cousin, this cousin knew she was pregnant at the sound of her voice.

~Against the cultural norms, Mary was accepted in her own pregnancy by Joseph, who was not the father of her child.

~ They were then forced by the government to make a very difficult journey to Bethlehem for a census.

~ As she went into labor the only shelter they could find was a stable, and in those unsanitary conditions she gave birth to her son.

~ Shortly after going through labor and delivery her family was visited by strangers.  These sketchy characters were shepherds who said an angel told them that her son was the Messiah and Lord.

… And I thought I had an eventful and emotional rollercoaster ride this year!

How did Mary respond to this?  She kept all these things… reflecting on them in her heart.[1]  This is in clear contrast to “all who heard it that were amazed.”

In this keeping or treasuring of events, this reflecting upon, pondering, and interpreting them in the heart… at the core of her being, where the Spirit of God lives… in this she becomes the model for we who believe.

Her approach is emphasized again[2] after Joseph and Mary find the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, His Father’s house, astounding the most learned teachers of Judaism with his understanding and his answers.  She kept all of these things in her heart as well.

This deep reflection of events in the light of faith informed her approach to life not just once a year but every day.  This idea is so important to Luke that in his Gospel Jesus himself refers to a faith like hers:

“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart and bear fruit through perseverance.”[3]

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”[4]

And in response a woman from the crowd who called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”

He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”[5]

In pondering today’s readings I saw a very clear theme of blessings.  They are all about blessings given and received.

We are blessed by the birth of Jesus so that we are not only reconciled, but we become the adopted children of God.  Take that in for a moment…

How does that change the way we see our lives if we ponder that in our hearts.  How does it challenge us to make adjustments, resolutions if you will, when we treasure that thought and live by it.

If you and I look back on the events of the past year and put them into the light of a faith that trusts that God loves us, maybe we will see the blessings that he can bring out of our pain.  Maybe we will see the direction that we are called to move in this year.  Maybe, it will even bring down our blood pressure a bit to rest secure in that faith that we are the adopted daughters and sons of God.

Part of why we come here to celebrate Eucharist each week is illustrated in the Book of Numbers today when God says to Moses that he is to tell Aaron and his Sons, how they are to bless the Israelites.

Here we see how intercessory prayer and the use of mediators goes back to the very roots of our faith.  So we come here to be blessed, that happens in sacrament and word as well as through Fr. Charles who follows in Aaron’s footsteps and blesses us in the Concluding Rite.  But, we also come to bless each other with the support and strength of community as well as to bless the whole world through our intercessions for it during the prayer of the faithful.

I have indeed revisited my resolution for the new year and I invite you to share this new resolution with me.  I resolve to learn from Mary the mother of God and my mother, to ponder things in my heart.  Whether they are happy events in my life or sad ones, my marriage, my work, my difficulties, illnesses, anything at all that 2012 brings to me I resolve to ponder in my heart and seek the blessings.

I resolve to seek the blessings that I receive, the blessings I can give, and the blessing I am called to be.

 

The LORD bless you and keep you!

The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!


[1] Lk 2:19

[2] Lk 2:51

[3] Lk 8:15

[4] Lk 8:21

[5] Lk 11:28

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