January 1, 2018

Mary, Peace

January 1, 2018:  Christmas Octave:  Mary, Mother of God / World Day of Peace

See about a dozen connections with today?
Legend below
Listen

For 1st reading
For Psalm 67
Pope Francis

NYE Vespers, Te Deum:  "When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son...."  Jesus Christ, Word made flesh, gave fullness to time of the world and human history.  "...Born of a woman"  The first person to experience the fullness given by Jesus’ presence was the woman he was born from, the Mother of the Incarnate Son, Theotokos, the Mother of God.  Through her the fullness of time has flowed:  through her humble faith-filled heart and her Spirit-saturated flesh.

From her the Church inherits this perception of fullness, which nourishes overflowing gratitude that extends to everything and everyone, comes from God, and involves both self and community.  We thank God for this year, recognizing that all good is God’s gift.  Though God gave us 2017 healthy, in many ways we've wasted and wounded it with works of death, lies, and injustices:  offenses against life, truth, and solidarity, which cause human, social, and environmental degradation.  We must assume responsibility before God, others, and Creation.

I'm grateful for all who quietly express their love of Rome with small but precious and concrete actions:  doing their duty, confronting traffic with care, respecting public places, pointing out things that are wrong, paying attention to the elderly and those in difficulty....  Without speeches, without grandiosity, but with a type of civic education practiced in everyday life.  I feel great esteem for parents, teachers, and all who try to train children and young people, educating them to belong, take care of themselves, and take an interest in the reality around them.  Many face difficulties but do their part to improve things, without crying uselessly or harboring resentment.  I invite you to express gratitude for these builders of the common good....

Today's homily:  
The year opens in the name of the Mother.  Mother of God is Mary's most important title.  Why do we say Mother of God, not Mother of Jesus?  The words contain a magnificent truth about God and us.  From the moment our Lord took flesh in Mary, he took on our humanity; there's no longer God without human beings.  To call Mary Mother of God reminds us God is close to us, as child to mother.

'Mother' (mater) is related to 'matter.'  In his Mother, the infinite God made himself small, became matter, to be with us and like us.  We're no longer alone; we're beloved children.  We see our reflection in the frail and infant God resting in Mary's arms and realize humanity is precious and sacred to the Lord.  To serve human life is to serve God.  All life, in the mother’s womb, the elderly, the suffering, the sick, the troublesome, the repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped.

Today's gospel says only one thing about Mary:  she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  She kept them; she didn't speak.  The gospels' Christmas account doesn't report a single word of hers.  She's one with her Son, unable to speak.  The Word of God, who “long ago spoke in many and various ways,” is now silent; God before whom all fall silent is now a speechless child.  Silence and lowliness is the language of his kingship; his Mother joins him in the silence.

As we gaze on the crib in silence, we rediscover we're loved, savor the meaning of life, and let Jesus speak.  His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his love touches our hard hearts.  To make time for God in silence is to 'keep' our soul and 'keep' our freedom from corrosion by consumerism, commercials, empty chatter, or shouting.

Mary "pondered these things in her heart."  What things?  Joys and sorrows:  Jesus' birth, Joseph's love, the shepherds' visit, the radiant night, but also an uncertain future, homelessness, rejection, the disappointment of having to give birth in a stable.  Hopes, worries, light, darkness all dwelt in Mary's heart.  She pondered them, dwelt on them, with God, holding nothing back out of self-pity or resentment.  We 'keep' things when we hand them over, not yielding to fear, distress, or superstition, closing our hearts, or trying to forget, but turning everything into dialogue with God.  God, who keeps us in his heart, comes to dwell in our lives.

So Mary silently treasured all things and brought them to God, in her heart.  At the beginning of the year, we need to set out from our center, leaving burdens behind and restarting from what really matters.  The Mother of God is our point of departure:  she's exactly what God wants us, and his Church, to be:  a tender, lowly Mother, poor in material goods, rich in love, free of sin, united to Jesus, with God in our hearts and our neighbor in our lives.  The Church's heart beats in Mary's.  To go forward, we must restart from the crib, from the Mother who holds God in her arms.

Devotion to Mary is a requirement of Christian life.  Looking to her, we must leave baggage behind and rediscover what matters.  The gift of Mary, every mother, and every woman, is precious for the Church.  While men often abstract and impose ideas, women 'keep,' put things together in their heart, give life.  We need a mother’s heart to keep God's tender love and feel the heartbeat of all around us.  May Mary, God’s finest human creation, guard and keep us, and bring her Son's peace to us and our world.   Full text

WDP message:  Migrants and refugees... in search of peace

Heartfelt wishes for peace:  Peace to all!  Everyone aspires to peace, especially those who suffer its absence, including the over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, searching for somewhere to live in peace and willing to endure hardship, even risk their life, for it.  We embrace all fleeing from war and hunger, or forced to leave their homeland.  But it's not enough to open our hearts to their suffering; more must be done so they may again live in a safe, peaceful home.  Welcoming others requires commitment, assistance, goodwill, attention, responsible management, and resources.  Government leaders should take prudent, practical measures to welcome, protect, and integrate them, while remembering their responsibility towards their own communities, lest they become like the rash builder.

Why so many?  Displaced persons are one of the consequences of war, conflict, and ethnic cleansing, but people migrate for other reasons too, mainly out of hope for a better life:  to join their families, seek professional or educational opportunities, or flee from poverty caused by environmental degradation.  Most migrate through regular channels, but some different routes when their countries offer neither safety nor opportunity but legal pathways out seem impractical.  Many destination countries demean the dignity due to all God's children.  Some people foment fear of migrants and so sow violence, discrimination, and xenophobia.  Though some consider migration a threat, I view it as an opportunity to build peace.


With a contemplative gaze:  Migrants and those who welcome them belong to one family and have the right to enjoy the goods of the earth.  Isaiah and Revelation describe the new Jerusalem as open to people of every nation, who marvel at it and fill it with riches.  Peace and justice guide it and govern coexistence within it.  See God dwelling in our houses, streets, and squares, fostering the desire for goodness, truth, justice, peace, and community.  Migrants arrive with their courage, skill, energy, aspirations, and cultural treasures; they enrich the lives of those who receive them.  We also see the creativity and generosity of those who open their doors and hearts to migrants.  A contemplative gaze should encourage those responsible for the public good to pursue policies of welcome, and so recognize seeds of peace and nurture their growth, turning our cities into workshops of peace.


Mileposts for action:  Offering migrants an opportunity for peace requires welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating:

  • Welcoming:  expanding legal pathways for entry, keeping migrants from persecution and violence, balancing concerns for national security and human rights.  “By showing hospitality to strangers, some people have shown hospitality to angels....”
  • Protecting:  recognizing and defending the dignity of those who flee dangers, and preventing their being exploited.  Think of women and children exposed to risks and abuses, even enslavement.  “The Lord watches over the foreigner....”
  • Promoting:  supporting migrants' human development, including ensuring access to education.  This will enable them to realize their potential and equip them to foster a spirit of dialogue.  God “loves the foreigner among you, giving them food and clothing.  Love foreigners; you yourselves were foreigners....”[15]
  • Integrating:  allowing migrants to participate fully in the life of society, for mutual enrichment, fruitful cooperation, and human development of the local community.  “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.”
Proposal:  I hope this spirit will lead the UN to approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly, and regular migration and another for refugees, to provide a framework for proposals and concrete measures.  They need to be inspired by compassion, foresight, and courage, to build peace and not surrender to cynicism or indifference.  
Dialogue, coordination, and international cooperation are necessary.  The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has published action points that provide leads for implementing these mileposts.  Our aim is to express the Church's interest in the process leading to adoption of the Compacts, a sign of pastoral concern that goes back to the origins of the Church and has continued to the present.

For our common home:  “If all share the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more a universal family and our earth a true ‘common home’” (John Paul II).  Many have believed in this ‘dream,’ and their achievements testify that it's no mere utopia.  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini devoted her life to migrants, became their patron saint, and taught us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them.  Through her intercession, may the Lord enable us to experience that “a harvest of justice is sown in peace by those who make peace.”


Read
  • Nm 6:22-27  Lord to Moses:  Bless like this:  The Lord bless you, keep you, shine on you, be gracious to you, look on you kindly, and give you peace!
  • Ps 67:2-3, 5-6, 8  "May God bless us in his mercy."  May all exult and know your salvation; you rule justly and guide us.
  • Gal 4:4-7  God sent his Son to ransom those under the law, so we might receive adoption.  God sent the Spirit into our hearts, crying, “Papa!”  So you're not slaves but children and heirs.
  • Lk 2:16-21  The shepherds found Mary, Joseph, and the baby, then shared the message they were told; all were amazed.  Mary reflected on these things.  The shepherds praised God.  The child was given the name Jesus, the name the angel gave before he was conceived.
Reflect
  • Creighton:  Every cell of Jesus' body developed from Mary’s.  In her body God, the Light of the World, took on human form, flesh and blood, bone and water.  “Hail his Dwelling, his Tabernacle, his Robe, the Virgin made Church” (Francis).  Mary said yes to God and a lifetime of wonder, confusion, joy, and pain.  She's known as blessed, Mother of Mercy, Mother of Good Counsel, Mother of refugees, the homeless, the dying, nonviolent, widows, unwed mothers, political prisoners, condemned and executed criminals; she's a sign and source of hope for the oppressed.  She can accompany us when we contemplate the Spirit at work within us and creation.  Mary bore Jesus, who rose and gave us the Spirit, so we may in turn give life, proclaim the Word, witness to Christ within and among us, and be signs of hope.  Mary is woman of wisdom and grace, our mother, sister, companion, advocate, friend, prophet, model of discipleship, Theotokos (God-bearer).  “Only Christ-bearers can restore the world to life and give humanity back the vitality of love” (Houselander).  Because of Mary we can nurture a personal, intimate relationship with God....
  • One Bread, One Body:  "Abba's daughter":  The Spirit came to Mary, and she conceived Jesus.  The Spirit cried out in her, "Abba."  She became mother of God and daughter of God the Father.  When she saw Jesus in the manger, nursing, saying his first words, taking his first steps, playing, learning to be a carpenter, crying, laughing, or praying, she saw not only Jesus but the Father.  When Mary and Joseph found him in the Temple, he responded with puzzling questions:  "Why did you search for me?  Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"  He taught her to call God "Abba."  When Jesus was hanging on the cross, she heard him cry out, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."  After the Resurrection, at the first Christian Pentecost, and later, when she was taken to heaven and crowned, she knew her Father's love.
  • Passionist:  The Church invites us to begin the year contemplating that God took flesh in the womb of young Mary of Nazareth.  The early church gave Mary the title Theotokos, “God-bearer.”  No matter what 2018 will bring us, we have courage and hope because God-with-us will never abandon us.  The deep springs of our faith give us courage and hope to accept the coming year....
  • DailyScripture.net:  "He was called Jesus":  A person's name represented what they'd be in the future; it expressed their being at its deepest level.  A Jewish male child was named at his circumcision, eight days after birth; it was a sign of the God's covenant with Abraham and his posterity.  Joseph and Mary gave their son the name Jesus because of the angel's message; the name, 'the Lord saves,' signifies his identity and mission.  Jesus is both God and man, so Mary is called both mother of the Christ ('Messiah') and mother of God (Theotokos, 'God bearer').  The name Jesus signifies that God's name is present in his Son.  Peter exclaimed no other name can save us.  In Jesus' name, exalted above every other, demons flee, cripples walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised.  Jesus' name is at the heart of Christian prayer; we pray through him to the Father in the power of the Spirit.  May we exalt Jesus' name and pray with confidence in his name.
Dress legend
  • 'Clocks' suspenders:  When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son (2nd reading); New Year
  • 'Dove' pin:  God sent us the Spirit crying out, “Abba, Father!” (2nd reading)
  • 'Sheep' tie bar:  The shepherds rushed to Bethlehem... (gospel)
  • 'Peace sign' tie bar:  The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace! (1st reading); World Day of Peace
  • 'Mary' pin:  Mary, Mother of God
  • 'Heart' pin (oops, forgot):  Mary reflected on these things in her heart (gospel)
  • 'Happy birthday, Jesus' and 'angel' pins:  After 8 days, he was named Jesus, the name the angel gave him (gospel); Christmas season
  • 'Streamers' tie:  Happy new year!
  • White shirt:  Today's liturgical color