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Why Have Mass on New Year’s Day

People will sometimes ask me if there is Mass on New Year’s Day.  The answer is always, yes there is Mass on New Year’s Day but it is not New Year’s Day we are celebrating.  New Year’s Day marks the beginning of a new year on the secular calendar.  It is seen by many as a day of new beginnings and new hope.  Each year there are huge celebrations across the world for New Year’s.  People will make New Year’s Resolutions.  Some resolutions might be broken before the day is off and some will be kept.

It is a good day to celebrate Mass in the church.  Every day is a good day to celebrate in church.  But the New Year’s Holiday is not the reason that today is a holy day.  Our holy day is to honor Mary.  Today we celebrate “The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.”  Once again we honor Mary for saying yes to God to be the mother of Jesus.  But the title we honor her under today is not simply Mother of Jesus but Mother of God.

In the early centuries of the church, there was great discussions over this title of Mary.  Some said, that in Greek, the title should be Christokos meaning “mother of Christ” because Mary is the human mother of the human Jesus.  God is eternal and thus Mary is not God’s mother.  On the other side was the title Theotokos meaning “Mother of God.”  Ultimately, it was agreed to use the title Mother of God not to say Mary was God’s mother but to stress Jesus is both human and divine.

But why today?

Today completes the “Octave of Christmas”  (octave mean eight days).  It was the Jewish custom on the eighth day after the birth of a son to bring him to the temple for the prescribed rituals.  Our gospel ends with Mary doing just that.  So, today we honor for her role as Mother of Jesus.

We also always honor Mary for the example she is to us.  At the Annunciation, Mary said yes to God.  At the Wedding Feast of Cana, when they ran out of wine, she told the servants, speaking of Jesus, Do whatever he tells you.  Mary did not know what Jesus would say or do but she knew he would do the right thing.

Today’s Gospel also speaks of how the people listened to what the shepherds said about Jesus.  Mary could have been dancing for joy, saying ‘look how great my son is.’  Mary did not.  The gospel said Mary kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart.  Once again Mary is an example for us of how she takes time to reflect on what is going on in her life.  Mary is a woman of peace.

We need to have quiet time ourselves to be able to reflect on the presence of God in our lives.  Sometimes it seems impossible to find the quiet time.  Our lives can be too busy.  Sometimes, it is difficult to enter into the quiet.  I know myself sometimes I go home at the end of a day I just want to crash.  Then, the first thing I do when I walk in the door is turn on the TV.  Sometimes, I don’t even watch it.  I just turn it on for background noise.  I don’t embrace the quiet.

We all need to seek interior peace.  As we think about this peace, in addition to being the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, today is also a World Day of Prayer for Peace.  For a number of years now, the Pope has written a message on peace for this day.

The peace that God offers us is the interior peace of knowing Jesus in our hearts but when we embrace this peace on the inside, peace on the outside can flow from it.

What keeps us from knowing peace on the inside?

Things like selfish thoughts of greed, envy, and jealous keep us from knowing peace.  If we are always seeking more, we are never satisfied.  If we are never satisfied, then we will have a hard time finding peace in our hearts.

Aren’t these some of these, the same things that cause wars and violence, people who are not satisfied with what they have.  People who start wars often do so seeking more power, wealth, or material goods.  Or they seek to make the world the way they want it rather than what God wants.  On the other end, when we overconsume, people who do not have enough, have even less and may feel a need to fight just to have enough.  If we become satisfied with what we have and stop wanting more, more is available for them.

So, as we honor Mary today as Mother of God let us follow her example of finding God’s peace in our hearts.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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