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.”
For this week’s homily please play the video below:
St. Luke skillfully describes Jesus coming to all in his Infancy Narrative, starting in the temple where the angel announces the birth of John to Zechariah, then to Nazareth where the birth of Jesus is announced to Mary. She hurries to her cousin Elizabeth with the news. Then, there’s the birth of John when the old priest Zechariah gets his voice back. Then, Jesus is born and poor shepherds come from the dark hills to see him.
In today’s reading, Mary and Joseph take the Child to the temple in Jerusalem, “to present him to the Lord,” and two old people, Simeon and Anna, meet the Child. Simeon is filled with joy taking the Child in his arms. “Now you can dismiss your servant in peace, Lord, because my eyes have seen your salvation.” No temple priests, no officials, no angels on the scene, just two old people who happen to be there meet the Child.
Anna, a temple regular, is 84 years old and a widow after being married for only seven years. She also sees the Child. “Coming forward at the very time,” Luke says, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
The Lord comes to the 84 years old woman, as well as to Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the shepherds in the hills, the wise men from afar. He comes to all. Anna gives thanks at the sight of the Child and speaks about him to everyone she meets. At 84, she becomes an apostle.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
Following a star, magi come from the east in search of the newborn King of the Jews, Matthew’s gospel reports. Reacting to the news, as the magi depart, Herod the Great orders “the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under…” (Matthew 2, 13-18)
At Christmastime we remember the Holy Innocents.
Matthew’s gospel is the only source for the massacre of innocent children in Bethlehem by Herod the Great. No other source from the time mentions it.
But it’s not inconceivable, since Herod was notoriously cruel and swift to take actions like this, especially when his own power was threatened. His thirst for power led him to kill a wife and three sons in intrigues over succession to his throne, and there were countless other innocent victims besides.
Matthew’s story, though, wants us to look beyond Herod and the innocent victims of Bethlehem to a later situation they represent. He’s writing, not for future historians, but for Jewish Christians living after Jerusalem has been destroyed and thousands killed by a massive Roman army in 70 AD. Why did God permit this, they ask? Where is the kingdom Jesus Christ promised would come?
Another stage in God’s plan is beginning, magi bring his message to other nations, Matthew writes. Powerful forces, like Herod and the Romans, stride the world seemingly unopposed; they take innocent lives, but God will save the weak, the small, the helpless through Jesus, his Son.
In a dream Joseph is told to take the Child into Egypt. “He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
More than a returning exile, Jesus returns from Egypt as the Messiah who will save his people: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
“Clothed in white robes, they will walk with me, says the Lord, for they are worthy.” (Antiphon for the Feast of the Holy Innocents)