Friday, December 30, 2011

Homily:Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (January 1): Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos) and World Day of Peace. Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Readings Year ABC: Num 6:22-27; Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Gal 4:4-7 and Luke 2:16-21

Mary, the Mother of the Prince of Peace

Dear friends in Christ, Happy New Year!

On January 1st of every year the Church celebrates the Solemnity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother; the mother of our Community of Faith.  This is so well confirmed by St. Paul in the Second reading, Galatians 4:4-7 that,

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons (and daughters)”

Today is also marked the world day of Peace in a world that needs peace more than ever.  First of all, this makes a lot of meaning, when we put up all the facts and the truth of the scriptures together, the role of Mary in our salvation history. Her role in bringing God closer to us- the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

 She is the mother of the Prince of Peace and the Lamb of God, the humble Savior and the Light of the world, who comes to destroy the power of darkness and sins, to liberate and restore (Zeph 3) those bugged down by all forms of captivity (Isa 61: 1ff; Luke 4: 18ff). Mary is the Mother of God, the Prince of Peace when we look back on the Christmas stories narrated in the Prophetic Books in the Gospels especially those stories we shared from the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke’s Gospel and of John.

 We recall the annunciation and the salutation of the Angel to Mary. Hail full of Grace! , favored one, = kecaritwme,nh (Lk 1:28), the Lord is with you, Blessed are you amongst women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus! Ave, o Maria, piena di grazia, il Signore è il frutto del tuo seno, Gesù. Santa Maria, Madre di Dio, prega per noi peccatori, adesso e nell’ora della nostra morte. Amen.

She is the Mother of God, because with the Grace of God, Mary was able to say “I am the Handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your Word” (Fiat- Lk 1:38). She was not afraid to say yes, and to be opened up to the will of God. 

With Joseph, they lived the vocation of an ideal parent, preventing Jesus not only from the cold winter in Bethlehem but also from the onslaught of Herod. In today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph opened their doors for the humble poor shepherd (Lk 2:16-21) and for the  rich and educated foreign  scientists-Magi (Matt 2: 13-23), as if she was teaching Jesus universalism, peace and inclusiveness of the poor, the rich, repentant sinners and saints in the Kingdom he  would come to preach about.

 Mary kept most of the mysteries of the birth and life of Christ, reflecting them peacefully in her hearts, offering them to God, including all that Simeon and Anna had said about Jesus, who would be source of joy and sorrows for many, a sign of contradiction.

After the Holy Families’ visit to the temple, recall, child Jesus stayed back. Mary and Joseph anxiously but peacefully searched for Christ. At home they peacefully and patiently Jesus human and divine values, those virtues that would later reflect in the Ministry of Jesus, as the Prince and Lover of Peace, long foretold by the prophets (Isa 9).  The most needed peace today can be traced back to Mary.

When we reflect back on the events of the past years in our families, homes, church, UN, in the Middle East, in NY/ the 9/11, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Irag, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Palestine, Russia, Asia, United States, Europe, Africa, all parts of the world, the natural, social, political, economic and sexual tragedies, we need peace more than ever today.

Peace, Shalom, which only God, Jesus, can give, is rooted in the Scriptures. Shalom, peace is nothing but wholeness. Peace is nothing but completeness that only God can give. In Psalm 34 verse 15, peace is the opposite of evil. Peace is “good life ethically ordered.” It is not far from Christian love, friendship and justice. Prophets Isaiah and Micah describe peace as a situation where by nation will not lift up a sword against nation, ( a situation where) there will be no more training for war” (Isaiah 2:14 and Micah 4:1-4).

Peace is grounded in forgiveness, in letting go sometimes, certain things. Peace is grounded in righteousness which only God gives us, through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace is God’s grace, the kingdom of God, justice, and love. In Matthew 5: 9 we are told “blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called children of God”, children of Mary, brothers and sisters of Jesus, which we saw in the second reading, Galatians 4:4ff. St. Paul in Galatians 5:22 and Ephesians 6:23, again sees peace and love as charity which are interrelated. Paul says,

“… The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Peace is God’s blessings. On January 1st we are encouraged to count all the blessings that God has blessed us with the past year. We do make New Year resolutions as well, sometimes to make up for the weaknesses and bad habits of the old year, if any. Whoever we work, live with or meet on the way, or speak with these days it is customary to say, “Happy New Year!,” which could be said in many languages  and dialects all over the world.

I guess by this we mean, a year free from ill fortunes, sicknesses, and pains. A year free from unnecessary misunderstandings, troubles, worries, unnecessary anxieties, rumors of war and terrorism. 2012 will be a year of peace, prosperity and increase in happiness. We look forward to a 2012, year of better economy, less violence in the name of religion. In 2012, we look forward to a year when our politicians would come together to agree- and search prudently for the common good- a year of less greediness!

As Christians we are aware of how rough our journeys could be sometimes. In the New Year we are beginning, even when may be down, let us realize that we can always turn our temporary defeat into a lasting victory. We can always turn our temporary “downs” into a lasting “ups.”

It is a year we hope to make much progress in getting accustomed to the new translation of the Roman Missal in the English speaking world. We look forward to a year that progress will continue to be made in our parish, seminaries and religious communities. A year we shall continue to work as a team and as a family of God’s people. Personally, I will continue to work hard in the Seminary, Sacred Heart School of Theology, teaching the Catholic faith, forming good priests after the Sacred Heart of Christ our Good Shepherd.

 We look forward to good year for Christ’s disciples, lover of peace, like Mary and Joseph who even both happiness and sometimes sorrows have helped him to love and trust in God more and more, and to always search for peace and well-being!

As we begin a New Year, may Mary the Mother of God, our Mother, the Church, intercede for us so that we may be blessed with lasting peace, joy in God’s love and happiness.

Let me conclude with today’s first reading, the priestly blessings from the Book of Numbers 6:24-26:

 May “The Lord bless you and Keep you! May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” in this New Year!

Happy New Year to you all!