My dear friends, in my younger days, I used to ask why is New Year’s a holy day of Obligation? Everybody is out celebrating the New Year on New Year’s Eve, so they don’t have time to go to Mass and on New Year’s Day everyone is too tired to go to Mass. Everyone who went to Confession during Advent to get ready for Christmas finds that within a week they are in the state of sin again because they missed Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation! Seemed strange to me.
However, since those days, I have learned that we don’t go to Mass today because it’s New Years, we go to Mass today because it is the final day of the eight day celebration of Christmas Day in the Catholic Church. And on this Octave Day or eighth day we celebrate the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, as a very important part of our celebration of the Birth of Jesus. For when God’s Son, was born as Mary’s son, this meant that in Jesus, God has become a human being in order to share our humanity and save us from darkness, sin and above all, to save us from death by giving us eternal life.
Today, Mary shows to us who her son is and what that means for us who are trying to follow him through our life to eternal life with God.
In the Gospel, St. Luke tells us that the shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and saw the child that the Angels had told them about. Then they told all who were there what the Angel had said to them: a message of good news and great joy that was meant for everyone. And that a child was born who is Christ the Lord. And everyone was amazed at what they heard. However Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
Today the Church invites us, each of us, to hear this Good News about what the Birth of Jesus means for us and to ponder it in our heart as did Mary. St. Paul in his Letter to the Gallatians, says to us: “Because you are sons and daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ We do call God “Our Father.” We refer to God as our Father when we pray. It is very normal for us. We are God’s children so we call God “Father.”
But why is it that the priest says, at every Mass: “At the Saviour’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say: Our Father…”What does he mean: “Dare to say.” When we dare someone, we challenge them to do something dangerous or improper or something that will likely get them into trouble. Why is it that it takes a command of Jesus and a formation by God’s teaching for us to dare to say “our Father” to God.
So, like Mary, we ponder in our heart what this means. We all know that we need to be someone’s son or daughter to call that person “Father.” The relation between a Father and his children is unique. And not anyone can truly call him “Father,” only his children.
Now we know that Jesus is God’s only Son. As John’s Gospel says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Since Jesus is God’s only Son, Jesus is the only one who can rightly call God: his “Father.” For God the Father only has one Son and that one Son is Jesus.
So here it is important to remember the words that God spoke to us through St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “Brothers and sisters. When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
These words are important to us who think that we are not holy enough to be near God. We say that are not really good enough to consider ourselves important to God, We ask: How can I be close to God. I’m not like a priest or a sister who spends all their time doing God’s work, I have to make a living, I have to raise a family, I have debts I have to pay. I don’t have time to be holy.
That may be true. But when God’s Son was born a little, helpless human baby, he made it possible for us to share in his godliness. And so St. Paul says: “…because you are sons and daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, Crying “Abba! Father!” How does this wonderful thing happen? What does this amazing thing mean? I am not going to explain it all to you today, because a lengthy explanation really doesn’t matter right here and now.
What does matter is that each of us walks out of this church this morning convinced that because Jesus was born into our world, and took upon himself our human reality, by becoming a human being like us in everything except sin, Jesus made it possible for us to become one with him. That happened when we were baptized. And by being one with Jesus we are made God’s son or God’s daughter.
When we were baptized, just before everyone prayed the Lord’s Prayer, the priest said this:The children who have been reborn in baptism today are now called children of God, for so indeed they are. In confirmation they will receive the fullness of God’s Spirit. In Holy Communion they will share the banquet of Christ’s sacrifice, calling God their Father in the midst of the Church.
Because of that we dare to say to God: “Our Father, who art in heaven… Our Father.” When we call God our Father, we not only say who God is, we also are saying who we are: the sons and daughters of God whom we can rightly call “Father.”
I think that we should never forget that, for it is our great dignity – each of us. I think that we need to be like Mary, the Mother of God, who “treasured all these words and who pondered them in her heart.”
And so we begin a new year with this blessing that God will bless and keep you and your families and those dear to you. May God make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; and may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. This is the blessing of God the Father given to us, his sons and daughters.