Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6-8
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

It has been said that “Time has no mercy. The minutes and hours… the days and weeks… the months and years continue uninterruptedly.” We are tempted at the end of the year 2020 to speak these words with a resentful vengeance, for so many of us feel that this past year with its many events was stolen from us by the pandemic and the perceived chicanery of many entrusted with leadership and authority in the fields of public health, religion, and government.

We are tempted to be fearful of future tyranny. At the end of each year, we close another chapter of our lives with all its routines and surprises. Our feelings at this time of the year are probably a mixture of nostalgia for previous years and relief for an end to this year. We can look back with hindsight upon 2020 and see tedium and listlessness and become fearful of the start of 2021 in which we can envision nothing better.

Yet, we are summoned by God to this Eucharistic banquet table of Word and Sacrament not just to mark the start of one year and the close of another but to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. The Church offers us these beautiful readings, including these words of Saint Paul to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law.” Today we remember that through Mary’s “yes” to God in becoming the Mother of His Son, eternity enters history — not through an invasion or an algorithm but through the pure and obedient consent of the Immaculate Virgin and the tenderness and love of the Blessed Mother — Immaculate Virgin and Blessed Mother, one and the same.

We are reminded that we are baptized into the fullness of time which then becomes the measure of the fleeting time of the minutes, days, months, and years of our lives that without Christ we foolishly interpret as gone forever. We are baptized into eternal life. Eternal life begins at Baptism and is renewed in the here and the now of the Eucharist. This is the reason that tradition requires us to speak of the number of the solar year as the “year of the Lord” — 2021 A.D. (Anno Domini). As we pray at the blessing of the Easter Candle, at the Liturgy of Light that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, all time belongs to Him.

Saint John Paul II remarked about this reading from the Epistle to the Galatians on this Solemnity, “Today’s liturgy tells us with the words of Saint Paul that time, which is the meter of the passage of human beings in the world, is also subject to another measure, that is, to the measure of fullness, which comes from God: the fullness of time. Indeed, in time — in human, earthly time — God brings His eternal project of love to fruition. Through the love of God, time is subject to eternity and the Word.

Since we as human beings are created with free will, with reason, and with the capacity to love intentionally, we can begin again with love as followers of Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Prince of Peace. When we reflect on the moments in our lives of the past year, we do so intentionally aware that these events that stand starkly in isolation apart from Christ are in fact swaddled by God’s mercy in eternal life just as the Son of God was swaddled in humanity as the Son of Mary.

Saint Luke in his Gospel today proclaims that Mary gathered all the events surrounding the birth of her Son and reflected about them in her heart. She pondered the things that had happened to enter more deeply into the mystery of what they meant for God’s People. She did so in awe of the immensity of God’s love and mercy for His people. Time has no mercy, but God who enters historical time in the fullness of time, embraces our time with His mercy that death and sin might not have the final word.

As we look back on the days and events of this past year, as we look forward to the year to come, perhaps we too can discern a bit more clearly the hand of God at work in our lives. How has He shown me His will for me, and what do I need to do now to offer Him my love? We are invited as we begin a new year to take the people and events of our lives to heart … to ponder them. We do not know the future, but we are able to get guidance on the right direction in our lives as we ponder God’s desires for us as we gaze into the face of the Christ Child laid in the manger. We will, at least, be reminded of the goodness He has showered upon us in Jesus. When we realize that, we become more ready to receive Christ in the coming year and to proceed with confidence that through Mary’s “yes” we are no longer slaves to merciless time but loved sons and daughters adopted by God. Then we will confidently pray with the Church in the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Liturgy, “May God bless us in His Mercy.”

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