Homily – Feast of Mary, our Mother and Sister

   My friends, with each new year, we are blessed with a fresh opportunity to look at our lives, being as honest as we can, admitting what has worked, what has not, and then deciding what we may want to change, by way of course correction, toward becoming our best selves –someone who will make our own personal life better as well as the lives of all that we touch in 2023.

   In my younger years, I called these proposed changes, as you probably did too, “New Year’s resolutions,” and in those years, I often times, let them go by the wayside before January was over. 

   At this point in my life, the changes that I am talking about are smaller, more doable ones, perhaps.  They are about “focus”—trying to be present to the moment –where I am and who I am with.  They are about respecting others and their opinions—working on being more kind, having more mercy in regard to others and their feelings, being conscious of truth and truth-telling, and being aware of the consequences when I am not. 

   I think most of us have been in the situation of “the elephant in the living room,” the topic we are all aware of, but no one wants to bring up for fear of hurting others, friends, and family, yet it is a constant, unwelcome guest.  Maybe 2023 might be the year that we can address this issue with the idea of bringing in more “light” as Michelle Obama speaks of in her new memoir, The Light We Carry.

   The readings for this first Sunday in the New Year, 2023 are encouraging in this regard.  We are told in both of the first two readings from Numbers and Galatians that we are “children of [our loving] God,” who wants an intimate relationship with us. 

   Paul instructs us to call God, “Abba,” meaning, “Loving Parent.”  This loving God is understanding and merciful toward our human condition, the psalmist says.  This God is all about “blessing” us, giving us a second chance, to become all that each of us was meant to be— “a light in our world.” 

   Often times, we are like Mary, Jesus’ mother, and ours, by extension, if we choose.  She calls us “to treasure all things and reflect on them, in our hearts.”  In our busy lives, we can sometimes get, “too busy” and miss opportunities to be that unique “light” that only we can be in any situation, the light that our brother Jesus asks us to be.

   The older I get, the more I realize that life is short, and thus, so precious.  I am compelled to “speak the truth,” as kindly, but firmly, as I can, especially to “considered,” powers-that-be.  It is the very least that can be expected of “God’s children,” of followers of our brother, Jesus.  Will this always be easy?  No, it will not! –but it is still the right thing to do! 

   Today’s feast is of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  She can be our mother too, or our sister, whichever relationship we might choose.  She has much to teach us about resiliency, and patience in dealing with what life brings.  Her “yes” in faith to a life which she had no actual idea about, going in, and all that it would bring, mirrors our lives too.  The Scriptures tell us that, “she treasured all… [that she didn’t understand] and reflected on [these things] in her heart.” 

   If we were to resolve in the New Year, to “reflect” in our hearts, all that is going on around us, at least, some of the time, this would be a great step toward becoming our best selves—toward “shining” our own, particular light. 

   As I said above, we might also consider our relationship with Mary, as a sister—a good, big sister who has had many wonderful, life experiences to share with us, if we are truly willing to delve into her life.  We can then take what we have learned from her and apply it to our own lives, pondering perhaps the wisdom of the elders among us, while they are still here. 

   Unfortunately, our knowledge of this strong woman of faith, may have been watered down over the years, by Church fathers who apparently have no need for, nor desire, for women who are strong, and who have been gifted by our God, with ideas and abilities to make our Church better, stronger, and something that the next generation truly wants to be part of! I believe Roy Bourgeois said this best, “Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God’s call to women is not?” (Roy was a member of Maryknoll and served as a priest for 40 years until he was expelled for participating in a woman’s ordination). 

   Thus my friends, we have a new year upon us, a bright and shining opportunity to see and hear and ponder life as it comes to us—always keeping the examples of Mary and her son Jesus in the foreground so as to be the best we can be, for ourselves, and for others.  Amen? Amen!