A blessed New Year! I am getting a head start on my Catholic Sun article. Although it is January 1 and the next edition of the Sun is not published until January 10, I decided to prepare my article before I leave for retreat on January 2. My brother bishops and I will be on retreat, at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, through January 8. Please remember us in your prayers.
The beginning of the New Year prompts us to make resolutions, often geared to the waistline, with moderation in food and more exercise. I am not beyond the need for such resolutions! Today’s Gospel reading on the Solemnity of the Mother of God, however, led my consideration of a resolution in a different direction.
The Gospel scene brings us to the shepherds at the manger. St. Luke tells us “they made known the message” they received from the angels. He continues, “All who heard the message were amazed” and adds, “Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart” (Cf Lk 2: 17-19).
All of us are called to “make known the message” by proclaiming the good news. “God challenges those who believe in him ‘to go forth.’ . . . Each Christian and every community . . . is asked to obey the Lord’s call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel. . . . Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, Cf. 20, 120, 121).
How can I, how can you, share the message of faith in Jesus Christ by our words and actions? Our diocesan mission calls us to know our faith, live it, and share it. The good news of salvation should not be hidden under a bushel basket but vibrant, active, and visible in our lives. As we think about a resolution for the New Year, let us consider a concrete way we can share our faith.
“All who heard the message were amazed.” Most of us are quite familiar with the Gospel message — not only the stories surrounding Christ’s birth but also the accounts of His ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection. We have heard the accounts so often they may no longer move us or capture our attention. When a message “amazes” us, it astonishes, astounds, surprises, and startles us. We may even be flabbergasted or dumbfounded!
When was the last time you were amazed by God’s word and grace in your life? As the New Year dawns you might consider how you can be more attentive to God’s love and mercy acting in your life. It can be as simple as arriving at Mass a few minutes early to reflect on God’s word or setting aside five minutes a day to read Sacred Scripture asking for the grace to grasp its beauty and life-giving spirit.
“Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart.” Surely, no one was more “amazed” at God’s word than Mary was. This amazement caused her to hold God’s word in her heart, to cherish and ponder it. The meaning of God’s words and actions in her life were often unknown, challenging and confusing. Regardless, she held them in her heart. She was attentive to her Son, watching Him grow, listening to His message, and observing His actions. Every utterance and action of His found a place in Mary’s heart.
On the journey of life and faith, we too experience challenges. In these times, it is important to hold the word of God in our heart as we search for its meaning. This requires silence, prayer, and reflection. Consider a resolution that allows for some silence in your life for prayer and reflection.
For many the Christmas season is over. The tree is down, the ornaments packed away, and the door wreath and outdoor lights on bushes and trees are no longer visible. Such is not the case in our parish churches however. The trees, wreaths, and poinsettias continue to adorn them and long-known and favorite Christmas hymns continue to be sung at our Masses. Most importantly, the manger also remains, inviting us to silent adoration of the infant Child, the eternal Son of God.
The Christmas season lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 13. In its waning days, hold the mystery of Christmas in your hearts. Consider how you can keep the love, joy, peace, and hope of the season alive during 2019. May we all do our part to make the message of the good news known to all whom we meet.
“When the song of the angel is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry, rebuild the nations, bring peace among people, make music in the heart” (Howard Thurman).
Happy New Year! Be assured of my prayers while I am on retreat and throughout 2019. Please remember me too.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.