We’re beginning a New Year. What will it be like? Some people don’t want to even think about it. We can think about politics, or terrorist attacks, or storms and floods. That’s what most of the television commentators will do as they look at the new year. Not much hope there. Can anyone help us look ahead?
Today in our liturgy we honor Mary, the mother of Jesus. Can she help us ?
Mary didn’t see clearly into the future in her own lifetime. She didn’t have a lot to go on when the angel left her in Nazareth. She was a woman of faith, rather than sight, but faith in the future might the greatest gift she offers us, a faith based on God’s power and not ours, a faith based on God’s love, God’s faithfulness and not ours.
Pope Francis quoted this prayer in his address to his advisors a few years ago at this time. He invited them to look into the future with faith. I think we can recognize Mary’s faith in the prayer.
“Every now and then it helps us to take a step back and to see things from a distance.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is also beyond our visions.
In our lives, we manage to achieve only a small part of the marvelous plan that is God’s work.
Nothing that we do is complete, which is to say that the Kingdom is greater than ourselves.
No statement says everything that can be said. No prayer completely expresses the faith.
No Creed brings perfection. No pastoral visit solves every problem.
No program fully accomplishes the mission of the Church.
No goal or purpose ever reaches completion.
This is what it is about: We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that others will watch over them.
We lay the foundations of something that will develop.
We add the yeast which will multiply our possibilities.
We cannot do everything, yet it is liberating to begin.
This gives us the strength to do something and to do it well.
It may remain incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way.
It is an opportunity for the grace of God to enter and to do the rest.
It may be that we will never see its completion,
but that is the difference between the master and the laborer.
We are laborers, not master builders, servants, not the Messiah.
We are prophets of a future that does not belong to us.”
by Howard Hain
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.
Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!
Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.
But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.
It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.
A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.
If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.
For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”
—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20
The softest sound that could ever be.
The slightest touch possible.
The simplest gesture known to God and man.
Nothing more powerful.
The Word became flesh.
God became man.
God became you and me.
Now the child leads us:
A Blessed New Year.
—Howard and family
by Howard Hain
I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?
Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?
Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?
I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?
Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?
Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.
Jesus is human.
Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.
Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.
And Jesus is divine.
Of course He was homesick.
Of course He longed to return.
Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.
He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.
He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.
He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.
Jesus is just like you and me.
Only He allows Himself to be loved.
And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.
All flowed from and toward a family reunion.
His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.
Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.
And He’s extremely contagious.
Joseph and Mary became homesick too.
There’s only one place they could want to be.
With their only child.
Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.