Thursday, December 29, 2011

"He was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel"

This Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, is not only the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, it is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace. It is highly appropriate that the whole Church pauses at the commencement of the New Year to take time to pray for world peace. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Mary, Mother of God

The readings for Sunday are extremely short; probably the shortest in the whole liturgical year, but this does not mean that they are without meaning. This Sunday we see Mary just days after the grueling journey and the amazing birth of Jesus. All is well. The child is healthy and cute, and the angels, unable to contain their joy, have once more danced into Mary’s life. Even the animals understand. It is breathtaking.

When we look at how Mary gave birth to Jesus, we can see that there are four moments in the process: Impregnation by the Holy Spirit; gestation of God within one’s body and soul; the stretching and agony of giving birth; and the nurturing of an infant into adulthood. Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains to us what is implied in each of these.

Does this all impinge on Mary’s peace? No, says Fr. John Foley, S. J. She is good to her word. The Gospel says that she quietly "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary was a woman of complete faith. Fr. Joseph Pelligrino points out that she had faith that somehow God would care for her in her pregnancy, in the childbirth, throughout her life, and at the foot of the cross. She had faith that His plan was working through this wonderful child of the common life.

Father Cusick reminds us that we therefore proclaim and preach the marvel God has brought forth in her, granting her a unique role in our redemption as "Mother of God". And so as we honor Mary on this day as Mother of God, we recall that during the Second Vatican Council Paul VI called her Mother of the Church. Fr. John J. Ludvik tells us that today we are reminded that all Christians too have conceived Christ in their hearts and are called to bring him forth into the world.

So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate January 1, the Octave of Christmas, as a holy day of celebration, the Feast of Mary the Mother of God? Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas. Jesus is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

The New Year & World Day of Peace

The fresh New Year is in some ways like the infant Jesus "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. explains that both the new year and the new child seem so vulnerable but the almighty power of God is hidden in the new year, just as it is in the tiny infant. God is fully prepared to wrap our fragile lives and hopes in the warm blanket of his ever present and constant love.

As we begin the New Year, we focus on the First Reading from the Book of Numbers and Fr. Phil Bloom asks us to make this resolution: Bless those who are close to you. At first it may be awkward to do so, but at least begin with a blessing in your heart. And in celebration of World Day of Peace, Fr. Alex McAllister says we should pray for peace - peace in our hearts, peace in our communities, peace in the world. In the words of the Book of Numbers let us pray that ‘the Lord will uncover his face to you and bring you his peace.’

Celebrating the New Year

Around this time of year, we see on TV and the Internet all sorts of lists of the most memorable events of the past year, as we try to put the past year in perspective. It's another New Year. But for what reason, asks Jamieson the Wolf?

So Leon Suprenant list his seven reasons why January 1st itself is of significance. While George Weigel, on the other hand, talks about his long-standing aversion to making a Big Deal out of New Year’s Eve. He explains why he feels going bonkers over the turn of the civil calendar is giving a bit more to Caesar than Caesar has a right to receive.

In the new year, why not set out to do a little memorizing — not only of Scripture — but of key phrases from the Catechism that “speak” to you? Pat Gohn named her favorite 25 lines that capture the essence of the first 1000 paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And Jerome Placido offers solid advice to the youth in our communities: Make each day of the New Year a conversion story.

New Year Resolutions

Whatever your plans for New year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, the beginning of a new calendar year invites us to reflect on the past and focus on the future. At the New Year’s Eve dinner party Danielle Bean hosts nearly every year, she subject friends and family alike to her list of discussion questions. She usually winds up sharing a little and laughing a lot. You can use her list (or make your own!) for personal reflection or family discussion.

And with the New Year comes new hope for a new beginning. Melissa Knoblett-Aman says a new beginning is a perfect time to decide to strengthen your Catholic faith life. Listen to the inner voice that calls us to do good and avoid evil and to the church’s moral teaching that helps spell out what is good and what is evil in practical terms. Then, Francis Cardinal George, OMI adds, pray for strength from God to change your activities.

And what life changes do you want to make in the New Year? What is your New Year's resolution for the New Year? Are you one who is looking to land a new job in the New Year? If you are, experts say you should be deliberate in deciding what you want and how to achieve it. And if you are one looking to make a financial resolution for the New Year, know that such resolutions have more often than not traditionally failed each year. Being realistic and sharing goals with others can help limit disappointment.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Is it a sin to wear a rosary as jewelry?
FEATURED BLOG: Did the Holy Innocents die baptized?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Santa Maria como madre de Dios es un regalo para la Iglesia

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