NEW YEAR’S HOMILY 2022
MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS, MODEL DISCIPLE ACCEPTING THE MYSTERY
PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL TO ALL ONGOING
Lk 2.16-21 Num 6.22-27 Gal 4.4-7
Another day, another year ends and a new one begins, as the unstoppable arrow of time moves on forward, no matter what is happening in your and my worlds. The sun and moon still rise and set, whatever the human conditions and circumstances of our lives. The weather continues to be as unpredictable, if not moreso, than ever, so some things always remain uncertain, although the unpredictability could be said to be the certainty!!
Meanwhile, what difference can we make, given the opportunities of life that arise for us? This is the traditional time for resolutions. I like the one I read today, where a person’s resolution was to not make a New Year resolution! And the worst I ever heard was from a cantankerous parish priest in Ottawa, whose New Year sermon amounted to telling a mother to take her crying child out of the church (no doubt, never again to return there, at least!)!!
Author Richard Glover thinks hopeful wishes might be a better way to go, with the Latino practice of eating 12 grapes: “One for each month of the coming year, and with each grape comes a wish”! He wishes for 2023 to be “less biblical”, in terms of “fires and floods and more floods… a mouse plague, and then a snake plague… (and) the plague plague of COVID-19… Starting tomorrow (today), I’d like the news to be a whole lot happier, And a whole lot duller…” He concludes with: “Health. And happiness. And a fairer go for everyone.” Now there are some positive thoughts.
I suggest that the best resolution is really to try to continue to try and live a good life, and, in our context, as faithful followers of Jesus, doing the best we can to apply Gospel values to our lives, and to maintain a spiritual dimension to the people we are.
As I often say, I don’t play down the significance of our material and physical dimensions and needs, but the search for purpose and meaning in life is also part of who we are as humans. The fact that faith tells us that Jesus comes among us through engaging in the full human experience of birth, family life, growth and learning, then suffering and death, gives us a sense of a loving and compassionate God’s engagement with us on a very temporal and personal level. It’s up to you and me to respond.
Bill Uren SJ has a good reflection on our Christmas faith: No, he didn’t tiptoe daintily through our human condition, but he identified with us, a God with skin on, and insinuated gently in his Sermon on the Mount that it was not power and influence, but love and vulnerability that were the key to a worthwhile life.”
Luke’s images are many, and his Nativity Gospel we hear over Christmas and today, is said to be the epitome of Lucan artistry, a wonderful theological tapestry, weaving together history (although inaccurate) and faith in the mystery of a God who loves his people in all of their diversity. For Luke, the shepherds reflect the lowly and simple, while for Matthew, we await the Magi or wise men later, symbolic of the wider world being part of the picture as well, so that this child comes, not just a for a small, specific group.
Luke’s 8 themes are all tied in, from food (manger, with Jesus as sustenance for the world), grace, joy, lowliness (shepherds and simplicity with no glory or finery here), peace, salvation, today (no more waiting) and universalism: the clear inclusive message is that all are welcome here, no matter what.
Claude Mostowik MSC, puts things well: “Happily, thankfully, God’s ways are more subtle than ours. Jesus came to share our human condition, to experience in solidarity the joys and sufferings, the trials and disappointments that best the lives of each and every one of us. He didn’t come as a king or a ruler or an emperor or a superman or a great orator exploiting the media or gathering the great and the powerful to trumpet his message to the world.”
And, to conclude, I quote humourist, Kate Halfpenny, who writes about New Year thus: “Stop thinking about mortality, sensible as that may be. Treat everyone like you’re just getting started. For mine, we increasingly spend our lives being concerned with how things seem to be. Keeping up appearances, Having what stamps us as belonging to a particular social set or gives gravitas… What’s it all for? As time goes by, I feel I know less and am frantic to fill gaps in my knowledge, practical, intellectual and spiritual… But one thing I know as we head into 2023 is life isn’t linear. It splits inevitably into relationships, and phases and addresses that feel endless at the time, but don’t last… So, right now, I’m feeling like the effort we put into perfecting our own appearance and those of our homes for others to admire is a waste of time. Things change. People change, The world changes. And that’s where the good stuff is… Happy New Year all. Hope it surprises you.”
And so we follow along the way of Mary, the ever faithful, model disciple, accepting the evolving circumstances of Jesus’ life, but without fully understanding the mystery, having said her initial “fiat” (let it be). So let’s make the most of the opportunities and challenges life throws at us, but not just live for the moment, resolving to make 2023 a Happy New Year, by the way we face up to life’s ups and downs, as faithful disciples also, as we continue to live out the spirit of love, peace and good will to all during the coming year, and beyond.
Happy 2023 to all.
john hannon New Year’s Day 1st January 2023