Today (January 1st) we honor Mary and we pray for peace. Here is the homily I preached on this occasion.
Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 2012
We could ask ourselves why are we here? The obvious answer is that it is Sunday and we come to church every Sunday. How else would we want to spend our Sunday morning?
Yes, today is Sunday but it is also January 1st. What comes to mind when you here January 1st? Perhaps the New Year? As a date on the calendar January 1st does mark the beginning of a new year. The beginning of a new year is seen as a time to make changes in our lives with New Year’s Resolutions. Of course, January 1st is the beginning of a new year on the secular calendar but our Christian faith (with Advent), our Jewish brothers and sisters, the Muslims, and the Asians all have calendars that mark the beginning of a New Year as an important day.
What else does January 1st mean to us? I’m sure some of you immediately realized it is a Holy Day of Obligation (how convenient it falls on a Sunday this year!). However, it is not a Holy Day because it falls on January 1st. Sometimes we get our ‘holy days” and “holidays” confused. Today is the 8th day of Christmas. On the 8th day, it was the Jewish custom to take newborn males to the temple to be circumcised. Mary, as a good Jewish mother, did that for Jesus. So, on this day we recognize Mary’s role as Mother of Jesus. But we do not called this day the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of Jesus. No, we say “Mother of God” recognizing the divine nature of Jesus.
There is yet another significance to January 1st for us in the Catholic Church. In 1968, Pope Paul VI declared January 1st to be a day for peace throughout the world and all the popes since then have continued this and issue a message each year inviting us to pray and work for peace especially on this day. Each year the pope writes a message to the world about peace. This year, Pope Benedict spoke on the need to educate our young people towards peace.
Why should we pray for peace on January 1st? Going back to the secular New Year, we could make working for peace our New Year’s Resolution. A new year of peace is worth a resolution.
From the church view, Mary is a woman of Peace. One of her titles is “Mary, Queen of Peace.” Mary is an example of peace for us with her trust in Jesus. At the Annunciation she did not understand how it could be so but trusting in God, she said yes in peace. At the wedding feast of Cana, when they ran out of wine, she had peace in her heart knowing Jesus would take care of it when she said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” When the shepherds told her and Joseph what the angel had said to them, Mary, in peace, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
And in this season of Christmas, when we reflect on the baby Jesus lying in the manger does the image of the infant Jesus not bring peace and hope to our hearts and souls?
Our other readings also include references to peace. The blessing God instructs Aaron and his sons to give to the Israelites includes the Lord giving them peace.
Our second reading includes Paul writing to the Galatians, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” Is not one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit peace?
Don’t we all want peace?
What is peace?
The peace that we seek in faith is not just a balance of power between countries. Nor is it simply an end to violence. That is peace in this world and we should seek that peace but that peace alone is not the peace of Christ that we seek in faith.
The peace that we seek in faith transcends this world. That’s why when we know the peace that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can know peace even in the midst of the difficulties we face in this world. In the midst of violence, illness, or natural disaster we can still seek the peace of Christ.
What might we do in this world to work for this peace to be known by all? Certainly a vital part of it is to share our faith so that all might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to know the fruit of that Spirit in peace.
What are some other ways that we might work for peace?
We must teach and practice a respect for all persons. If people are not respected and given all their God-given rights, then they may need to fight for their basic rights. In this midst of such fighting and when basic needs are not fulfilled, how difficult it is to know peace.
We must care for the environment. How does caring for the environment contribute to peace? Well, if we over consume our natural resources, then others (today and in the future) may not have enough and then suffer or fight for what there is.
Lastly, we must truly pray and desire for peace. We must ask ourselves do our actions promote peace or put our needs before others, denying them peace.
Today is New Year’s. It is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God who is Queen of Peace. When is there a better time to pray for peace?