Mary the Mother of God: New Year Day

MARY, MOTHER OF GOD and New Year’s Day
Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21
Today we celebrate the feast of Mary as the Mother of God. Together with this feast we celebrate the Holy name of Jesus for on the eighth day he was given the name of Jesus. For us also, this is the New year day, the day when we look forward to a fresh beginning and to look forward with new hope and gratitude. Gratitude for all God has done in the previous year. From the early church, Mary was accepted as the Mother of Jesus and Mother of God. When Elizabeth said “the mother of my Lord,” she was referring to the heavenly Father, the Lord, Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, He being present in the womb of Mary. At that moment in time, the Trinity had not yet been revealed to mankind. Jesus and the Holy Spirit were unknown. Based on this passage alone, it cannot be denied that the Blessed Virgin Mary was to become, not only the Mother of Jesus as God incarnated, but also the Mother of the heavenly Father.
In 431 A.D, the Council of Ephesus affirmed that Mary was truly the Mother of God because “according to the flesh” she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God from the first moment of His conception. The words that they used to affirm this truth are: “We confess, then, our lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God perfect God and perfect man. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, and one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy virgin to be the mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her.” Twenty years later, in 451 A.D. at the Council of Chalcedon, it was affirmed that the Motherhood of Mary was a truthful dogma and an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. The Feast of the Mother of God affirms that Mary was the mother of Jesus who was both God and human. The Holy Scriptures teaches us through the Gospel of John that Jesus was both God and human.
However, many would say, After all, how can God have a mother? He is eternal, with no beginning or end. As Creator, we understand him to be the source of all living things. There is nothing beyond or ahead of him. How then can he be described as the offspring of someone else? The term seems either contradictory or meaningless. Mary, of course, is primarily the mother of Jesus. She contributes from her own body to the formation of his human body. She is the mother of Jesus. But the Gospel speaks of his Father being God, not Joseph. Yet for Mary when she said her yes, it was a life changing moment. She brought salvation into the world and her yes continues to play that important role in every one-s life. Today we honour Mary the mother of God for her courage and her selflessness, her faith and her devotion. We also treasure her as our mother. She too must have felt afraid at certain moments but her trust in God made her accept the role of a mother of he divine person.
In today’s Gospel Luke describes the simple scene in the stable at Bethlehem. We see a man, a woman who has just given birth, and a baby in a feeding box. Truly primitive surroundings and yet this Baby is the Son of God and that young woman is the Mother of God. This is the great mystery of the Incarnation. His first visitors were the shepherds, a group of poor and despised persons and rejected by people. Jesus came to the world for such as these to save and liberate them. We have Mary experiencing the wonders of God in her life. She sees it in the eyes of faith. Hence Luke says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart”. She had indeed a great deal to ponder about and understand. The Gospel also reminds us of the naming of the child and the circumcision that took place in accordance with the Jewish custom. In the Jewish tradition the naming ceremony was very important. The name indicated the personality and character. They would not unnecessarily call a person by name. That is why they never used the name Yahweh since they could not perceive his personality. The name Jesus indeed pictured the personality of the child.
But, as St. Paul tells us in today’s Second Reading, “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as children.” God chose to have his son born in normal circumstances and did not seek any exemption or miracle. The consequence of this birth is that we are now sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of Jesus. Therefore, with Jesus the Son, we now can, like him, address in loving intimacy God the Father as “Abba”, an endearing term for a father.
Finally, this day takes us to contemplate on the concept of Peace. In recent years, today, the first day of the New Year, has been designated World Day of Peace. It is very appropriate because today’s gospel story is filled with a beautiful peace. In fact the angels’ song gives this message, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth”, that the shepherds had gone in search of the baby in the manger to discover the author of peace. On this day, the Pope asks all of us to pray for peace and to work for peace. There are many places in the world today where there is a great deal of violence and conflict. Untold millions of innocent people are the victims.
But, when we think of peace, we should not just think of the conflicts which make headlines in our newspapers. We need to be the agents of peace in the world of today. All of us can and need to be agents of forgiveness and reconciliation. We can all be peace-makers. The Beatitudes tell us “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” As the song tellingly says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with ME.” We could hardly make a better resolution at the beginning of this New Year.
Today, we are starting a new day and a new year with inner knowledge and understanding of the greatness of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. We then conclude with the blessing as given in the first reading of today where the Lord blesses Moses and his community: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace. May the peace of the Lord remain within us, our families and communities and bring us the joy and happiness in the year to come.

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