Readings & Homily: Solemnity of Mary, Sunday 1st January 2023

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Sunday, 1 January 2023
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Readings and Antiphons on p. 139 of the Daily Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.
Hail, Holy Mother, who gave birth to the King, who rules heaven and earth forever.

First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27

A reading from the Book of Numbers.

The Lord said to Moses,
“Say to Aaron and his sons,
thus you shall bless the people of Israel,
you shall say to them:The Lord bless you and keep you:The Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you:The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace. 

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel,
and I will bless them.”

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3.5.6 & 8 (R. 2a)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. O God, be gracious and bless us.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your salvation.

Let the nations be glad and shout for joy,
with uprightness you rule the peoples;
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
that all the ends of the earth may revere him.

R/. O God, be gracious and bless us.

Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians.

Brothers and sisters:  

When the time had fully come,
God sent forth his Son,
born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as family.
And because you are family,
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So through God, you are no longer a slave but God’s child,
and if God’s child, then an heir.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days, he has spoken to us by a Son.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.

At that time:
The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem,
and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby lying in a manger.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying
which had been told them concerning this child,
and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary kept all these things,
pondering them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them. 

And at the end of eight days,
when he was circumcised,
he was called Jesus,
the name given by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

The Gospel of the Lord.

HOMILE

Happy New Year! 

  • I made 6 New Year resolutions last year and I kept them all year long:
    • they are in an envelope on the top of my filing cabinet. 😊
  • Some of us make resolutions like one man, named George, I heard about recently.
    • He said to a friend: “There’s nothing like getting up at six in the morning, going for a 5km run, and taking a brisk cold shower before breakfast.” 
    • His friend Bob asked, “How long have you been doing this?” 
    • George said: “I start tomorrow.” 😊

As we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus, 

  • we turn our attention today to his mother Mary, 
  • but we continue to focus on Jesus as well. 
  • We give various titles to Jesus such as Saviour, Christ, Messiah, Lord, Son of Man,
    • and each of these titles expresses an aspect of our understanding of Jesus. 
  • Similarly, we give many titles to Mary
    • there is a long list of them in the Litany of Our Lady of Loreto—
    • and the title we celebrate today, “Mother of God,” and the title “Blessed Virgin,” are the two oldest titles given to Mary. 
  • In one sense, the title Mother of God says more about Jesus than it does about Mary. 
  • That is why I said we continue to focus on Jesus today also. 
  • What does the title Mother of God say about Jesus? 
  • It means that the humanity and divinity of Jesus are united in Jesus. 
  • There is not a separate human Jesus and a separate divine Jesus;
    • there is one Jesus with a human nature and a divine nature, true God and true man, 
    • and because there is one Jesus, we say Mary is Mother of God. 
  • There was a misunderstanding about this very issue in the fifth century that led to hundreds of bishops meeting in the year 431 AD during the Council of Ephesus.
    • The council clarified that it is indeed correct and proper to give the title Mother of God to Mary 
    • because there is one Jesus with a human nature and a divine nature. 
  • Even before that clarification, the title Mother of God had been used by the faithful when describing Mary. 
  • Following the clarification by the Council of Ephesus that it is right and proper to call Mary the “Mother of God,”
    • many churches were dedicated to Our Lady, and in 432 AD, the year after the Council of Ephesus, 
    • the construction of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome was begun.
    • the Basilica of St. Mary Major is first in importance in the world as a Marian shrine for pilgrims.
    • Pope Francis goes there before and after every trip he makes.

Mother of God! 

  • Some would like to know if there is anything in Sacred Scripture, in the Bible, to support the title ‘Mother of God’ and the clarification by the bishops in the Council of Ephesus. 
  • The answer is Yes:
    • just as for so many of our Catholic beliefs, there are statements in Scripture that give us the background.
  • Paul’s letter to the Galatians, one of his earliest letters, was written  about twenty years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus.
  • It was written before the Gospels were written. 
  • In today’s extract we heard: “God sent his Son, born of a woman.” (Gal 4:4)
    • God the Father sent his Son Jesus into the world and Jesus was born of a woman
  • This statement from St. Paul supports the title Mother of God, “God sent his Son, born of a woman.” 
  • Another helpful statement in Scripture supporting the title Mother of God is in Luke’s Gospel when Mary visits Elizabeth and Elizabeth cries out,
    • “How does it happen that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) 
    • Elizabeth proclaims Mary to be the “Mother of my Lord.” 
    • This is indeed very close to Mother of God.

We thank Mary for becoming the Mother of God. 

  • We are very happy to venerate Mary especially today as Mother of God
    • because we know of her love for us and we love her in return. 
  • A very good way to show our love for Our Lady in return is to pray the Rosary.
    • In the rosary we meditate on the life of Jesus
    • And that is what Mary wants for us – to come closer to God.

We read the excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Galatians today because Paul wrote, “God sent his Son, born of a woman.” 

  • What about today’s Gospel? (Luke 2:16-21) 
  • Why do we have this particular Gospel today about the shepherds visiting Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? 
  • It refers to Mary
    • but I think the reason is because the passage concludes by telling us what happened eight days after the visit of the shepherds when Jesus was born, 
    • the octave of his birth, today. 
  • It tells us on that day, today, Jesus was given his name, Jesus (Luke 2:21). 
  • Jesus was the name given by the angel Gabriel to Mary and Joseph before he was born (Luke 1:31; Matt 1:21). 
  • It is a divine name, not a name to be used disrespectfully in a blasphemous way. 
  • It is good to recall the sacredness of the name Jesus and the sacredness of the titles given him, including the title Christ.

So we know why we have today’s second reading, and the Gospel. 

  • But what connection does the first reading have with today? (Num 6:24-27) 
  • It gives us the words of the blessings priests gave in the temple in Jerusalem when they blessed people at the conclusion of liturgies:

The Lord bless you and keep you:The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
(Num 6:24-26)

As we begin this New Year, 2023, 

  • we ask God’s blessing on the New Year,
    • and the words of blessing of the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem 
    • echo our prayers to God today that God bless our New Year. 
  • When the priests bless the people, it is God who gives the blessing. 
  • God honours the blessing given by his priests. 
  • Every Mass concludes with the blessing of the priest and if anyone leaves Mass early, that person misses out on the blessing of the priest which is the blessing from God.

As we begin this New Year, we venerate Mary, the Mother of God. 

  • Mary was able to say Yes to God to be the mother of Jesus.
  • We call Mary ‘Mother of God’ because there is one Jesus with a human nature and a divine nature. 
  • We ask God to bless our year ahead in the words which God himself asked priests to use in the temple (and here I use the more familiar translation):

The Lord bless you 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 (Num 6:24-26)

Communion Antiphon.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

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