Thursday, December 31, 2015

Homily [4] Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1): Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [4] Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1): Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo: Readings: Num 6: 22-27; Ps 67:2-3, 5-8; Gal 4:4-7 and Luke 2:16-21

  Mary- Mother of God, Source of Peace and Mercy!

“The Shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger….when eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb”(Luke 2:16,21).

These passages from Luke’s Gospel give us a clue of what we celebrate today- Mary, the Mother of God, Source of Peace and Mercy! On every First January of each year the Church gathers in the name of Jesus, in the name of “Joshua,” in Hebrew, “God is salvation,” to pray for peace and mercy, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy! Jesus, Mercy, Peace! J. M. P. Or, Jesus, Mary, Peace are the subjects of our contemplation today!

 Jesus was the Holy name given to him by the angel before her Mother, Mary “conceived her in the womb,” (Luke 2:21). This name was promised us through a young woman, Mary, as “Immanuel,” “God is with us,” (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31) by many of Israel’s prophet (Isa 7:14), during Advent! This name gives special identity to Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, Theotokos, the Mother of “Immanuel” God is with us-- peace is with us, mercy is with us, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy; love is with us, forgiveness is with us, God’s blessings are with us. For the Psalmist, his shining face is constantly us (Ps. 67; Numbers 6:22-27). The shining face of the Son of Mary!

Of course, this Mary is our mother too; “mother behold your son, and son behold your mother” (John 19:25-26). This Mary is the mother of the Church. What a special privilege given her by the Lord!  Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading (Galatian 4:4-7), acknowledges this special privilege, and the human dimension of Jesus. Paul’s says, 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), Galatian 4:4-7.

 This is an important dimension of our faith, acknowledging the human dimension of Jesus, why and how God came down in the person of his Son, Jesus, through a young Jewish woman, Mary. Through her, God is with us, in our flesh, in our homes and families,  in the midst of our own human history; and from the heart of this human history Christ proclaims the love and mercy of God to us and to our neighbors, particularly in this special Jubilee Year of Mercy! As he walked the streets of Palestine, Christ walks our streets, our villages, out counties, our local governments, our states, and our nations today!  He reaches out to the poor, those in prison, the enslaved, the sick, the marginalized, the needy, the “widowed” and the “widowered,” the orphaned and the immigrants of our nations; the young and the aged of our states; He brought them peace--- and teaches us to do likewise; as currently echoed by Pope Francis, in his 2016’s Message, for the World Day of Peace.

The title of Pope Francis’ message is, “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” In it the Holy Father encourages all of us to fight for mercy and peace, like Mary, the mother of Jesus.   Mary was very peaceful all the time. She passed this to Christ her baby boy. During the annunciation, you would recall, Mary peacefully said to Angel Gabriel, “I am the Handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). She was not afraid to say “yes,” and to be opened to the will of God.  Never for once was Mary violent and abusive, even to those who disbelieved her, or suspected the source of her pregnancy. She chose the path of dialogue than divorce!  She welcomed the humble poor shepherd (Luke 2:16-21), who came to see them in the manger in Bethlehem.

Again in today’s Gospel, we are told, “Mary kept all these things reflecting them in her heart.”  Have you ever asked, what were all these things? They were her joys and sorrows: the tiring journeys  from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for the place to stay for the night, the songs of the angels, the unexpected visit of the shepherds, the prophesies of Simeon and Anna, Jesus staying back in the temple,the salutations of Elizabeth,- "Hail Mary , full of Grace, the Lord is with you," the flight to Egypt,- the later events of the Cross- Mary remains calm, not agitated, not freaking-out, she is not overcome by “events greater than herself” (Pope Benedict XVI), in silence she considers what happens, keeping it, pondering, praying over it, calmly in her heart.  This is the inner peace which we ought to have in the midst of our joys and sorrows of our journeys and the events of our life.

I believe when we look back on the events of the past year[s] in our families, church and nations,---the wars, accidents, terrorisms, Isis, Boko Haram, kidnappings, gun violent, fire, earthquake, changes in climate, political debates, changes in governments, ramblings in the United Nation, visits to doctors, loss of our loved ones and birth of our the new ones, children and grandchildren into our families, we need to be grateful to God for this near year, and pray for one another. We need peace more than ever, in the world today.

Sometimes it could have been worse! Appreciate today God’s blessings in your life- your families, jobs, food, clothing, good health, the Church.  Don’t hesitate today to make new year resolutions, and to wish your neighbor a happy New Year today; to share that peace of Christ, that friendship, that sense of justice, that sense of oneness, that community spirit, that forgiving spirit, that Christian love and charity, that inner peace that Mary exemplifies!

 As we begin a New Year, may Mary the Mother of God, Mother of the Church, intercede for us and our families, so that we may be blessed with lasting peace, and joyful New Year! And with the priestly blessings heard in the 1st reading, I want to say, 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” and mercy, in this New Year (Num 6:22-27)!

Happy New Year!