My Dear Sisters and Brothers! As we begin the New Year the Gospel for this Mass invites us back to Bethlehem. St Luke, who eight days ago, at the Christmas Midnight Mass told us about the birth of Christ and how the angles of God announced it to the shepherds, shows us today how ‘the shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby lying in the manger.’ With the shepherds we discover that the reason for us to be most grateful to Mary is that she has given us Jesus. We ask her for many things. We believe that for us asking her for various things is as natural as for children asking their mother. Our confidence is based on the role she played in Jesus coming into our world and into our lives. If she has given us her son Jesus would she refuse interceding before the throne of God to obtain the good things we seek? That’s why the first day of the year for us Catholics is called the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This title is the most beautiful and the most important of all titles ever given to Mary: Mother of God.
O Blessed Virgin we turn our hearts and minds to your motherhood. The motherhood you embraced was bigger than your life. Your motherhood was the gate for God to enter our poor world. This little Babyboy was your joy. He has been our joy too. This little Babyboy gave meaning to your life. He has given meaning to our lives too.
Mother of God is a beautiful expression but it is also a hope filled expression. As we begin the New Year we do so nurturing hope that it will be a good one. We can have this hope because we look into the coming 365 days through the lenses of this Luke’s Gospel in which Mary holds the Baby Jesus. I firmly believe that she extends her arms with her tiny Treasure towards us. Contemplating this Gospel passage I can’t help thinking of that moment from the Mass when the priest takes a host and moving it towards the congregation he says: ‘Take it all of you.’ Bethlehem means the house of bread. Before Jesus spoke of himself as the Bread of Life, the place of his birth already indicated it. The little town of Bethlehem had waited a long time to be the house of bread not just by name but by the presence of the Bread which came down from heaven. Similarly we desire to be Christians not just by name but because Jesus Christ lives in us.
O Holy Mother of God, we will take Jesus into our own life and thus our life will become a new Bethlehem, a new house of bread. We ask you to help us to be generous sharers of Jesus with the people who will cross our path in the coming twelve months.
Happy New Year.