Merry Christmas everybody! Today we celebrate the 8th day of Christmas. And that means that we are entering into the new year. Traditionally, we ring in the new year by celebrating a title given to Mary – as the holy Mother of God.
When we celebrate Mary’s role, remember that it is always and inseparably connected with God’s plan for us through Christ. Through her title, “Mother of God,” the Church reminds us that Jesus is fully human and also fully divine. That is to say, Jesus has two natures and yet is one person. Jesus is both human and divine. But there are not two Jesus’. He is one person. The significance of this is absolutely amazing.
God has become one of us. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is our brother. Therefore we call Jesus "Emmanuel, God with us." Jesus our brother is perfect, without sin. Therefore we call Jesus the “new Adam.” Jesus has become the perfect sacrifice for us. Therefore we call Jesus the "Lamb of God." Through Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine, we are given the gift of eternal life. This is why we have been singing Christmas glorias lately. These amazing gifts from God are truly glorious.
Because God has become one of us, we can call Jesus our brother, and we become part of the divine family through our baptism. When we are baptized we become beloved sons and daughters of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus. Therefore since Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is also our own mother. We are incorporated into the blessings that she has been given. She is the mother of the church and our mother. As she reigns with Christ in heaven, so we also have a divine and royal inheritance to reign with Christ. All of the heavenly treasures Jesus spoke of are shared with us.
So it is that we celebrate the true identity of Jesus today – fully human and fully divine, two natures and one person. God made flesh - our brother. Because of this divine mystery of Jesus we also celebrate the identity of Mary – the holy mother of God. Hopefully we are catching the amazing implication of this, for it also defines our identity in Christ.
In celebrating Mary and Jesus we are also celebrating some amazing blessings that God gives to us. And what can our response be to those blessings? Easy. Receive the blessing and then live the blessing. Of course, a good question is – how do we live the blessing? Answering that question is a great way to start this new year year.
The reading from the book of Numbers shares with us the blessing God gave to the Israelites. These words are amazing. Listen to them again. “The Lord bless and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.” This blessing is spoken in prayer. The blessing imparts the reality of the Lord’s presence, graciousness, kindness, and peace. So think about this. Who wants to walk more and more in the presence, grace, kindness, and peace of the Lord?
How about this for a great start to 2015? Strengthen the practice of household prayer. During family prayer invoke this blessing from from the Book of Numbers. God really wants to give us this blessing. God asks us to ask him for it. Let 2015 be the year where we as a parish family walk more securely in this blessing from the Lord. For this is an important part of what it means to be a member of God’s family, with Jesus as our brother, Mary as our mother, and God the heavenly Father as our Father.
And there is more! The gospel reading tells the story of the shepherds visiting Joseph and Mary to see the newborn messiah that was announced to them by angels. The shepherds were obedient to the invitation from the angels, and they got the blessing of seeing Jesus.
At the end of the reading there is a little line of significance. It says: 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. Here, we see evidence of the obedience of Joseph and Mary to the divine directions given to them – both through the law which they knew by virtue of being raised in the faith, as well as through revelation which they received personally.
Through the example of their obedience we get to ask ourselves a question. In what way do we need to grow in obedience to God’s holy Word? In what way do we need to grow in obedience to what God has shown each of us personally? Here is one good suggestion. Call a household meeting at the beginning of this new year. And in that household meeting make three commitments together.
1. Re-commit to prayer. Talk about practical ways of praying together as a household. Make commitments and support one another in prayer. Prayer brings us closer to God and to one another. And we walk more securely in the blessings of God. Re-commit to prayer in 2015.
2. Re-commit to learning. Talk with each other about a plan to grow in knowledge and understanding of the faith. I speak especially to our youth and adults here. Continued growth in knowledge of the faith teaches us how to walk in the blessing. Our lighthouse Catholic media is one good way. Our parish study groups are excellent. Whatever is decided, re-commit to learning in 2015.
3. Re-commit to the sacramental life. Talk with each other about how to walk more securely in the sacramental life. The sacramental life always opens up the gifts of the Spirit – knowledge, understanding, wisdom, council, courage, piety, and wonder and awe. We all need more of this. So re-commit to the sacramental life in 2015.
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus. Let us together prepare our spiritual plan for 2015 so that we can live in the blessing of God. And on this most special day of Christmas, let us ask for the prayers of Mary, our mother in Christ.
Mary, mother of God, pray for us.
Mary, queen of heaven, pray for us.
Mary, mother of the Church, pray for us.
Mary, queen of peace, pray for us.