Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Blessed New Year (January 1.2013)

You can’t say enough about Mary,” wrote St. Bernard of Clairvaux. But of course he never promised a four-minute homily on her feast day.

When I promised on Sunday such a short homily for today, I hope I wasn’t being disrespectful of Our Lady; I was only following the instructions of my first pastor—who might even have told me that three minutes was enough preaching on New Year’s Day.

The fact is, four minutes is enough for four points that can help us start 2013 off in a solid spiritual way.

The first point is that God is the source of all our blessings. That’s obvious from the first reading. Equally obvious is the fact that we should ask for his blessing: the Lord tells Moses to instruct Aaron, who is a priest, to bless the people. Priests and people alike are to pray for God’s blessings, as we do today at the beginning of this new year.

The second is that we should give thanks for the blessings we have received. The psalm we have just heard asks God to bless us, but it also rejoices in the blessings already received: “for God, our God has blessed us.” Thanksgiving is a crucial part of Christian life, not only as another year begins but also as one ends.

Yesterday’s National Post printed letters from people who wrote about the things that bring them joy or gratitude. Five letters mentioned faith—Catholic faith specifically in two of them. But one writer said “I have nothing to be grateful for. Cigarettes are expensive and the [Montreal] winters are long and harsh.”

The third point that today’s wonderful readings bring to mind is this: the blessing of all blessings is the Son of God, born of Mary, born of a woman so that the whole human race might become adopted children of God.

How easily we can pass over St. Paul’s words “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” The verb ‘redeem’ has lost its power today: we redeem airline points, or store coupons; or maybe a disgraced politician tries to redeem himself.

But Paul is speaking of buying back a slave; he is talking about freedom. All because Mary, a human being like us, is truly the mother of God’s only Son.

Finally, the Gospel invites us to join Mary in contemplating Christmas. What does this annual event mean to our lives—what difference does it make, what changes does it demand? Together with Mary—inspired by her and helped by her—we ponder what we’ve heard these past few days. We allow the reality of Christ’s birth to penetrate our hearts as it did hers, even to the point of pain.

From such beginnings will a blessed new year emerge—a year when we draw closer to God who has come so close to us, a year we entrust to God’s providence and Mary’s motherly care.

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