January 1st, 2018-New Year’s Day-Archbishop B. O’Brien

Feast of Mary, Mother of God, January 1, 2018


Today, on this New Year’s Day, the Church celebrates the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, as well as the World Day of Peace.

We see in our first reading from the Book of Numbers that God instructs Moses on how the people are to be blessed.  This passage reminds us that God’s overall desire is for our good – that God’s stance toward us is gracious, desiring our peace.  This peace is not simply the absence of violence from our lives, but peace in the sense of “shalom”, a peace in which we live in harmony with God, with one another, and with the natural world.  It is a peace free from oppression and social injustice.  Certainly, when we look around the world today, there is an absence of such peace in many places.

This year, in his Message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis focuses on Migrants and Refugees.  He mentions that there are over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees.  In a spirit of compassion, he invites us to embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced – by discrimination, persecution, poverty, or  environmental degradation – to leave their homelands.

The Holy Father tells us that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others.  To give them an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy involving four actions:  welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating.

“Welcoming” calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people toward countries where they face persecution and violence.  It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights.

“Protecting” has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent their being exploited.

“Promoting” entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees.  Among many possible means of doing so, the Holy Father stresses the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people.

And, finally, “Integrating” means allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community.

Many of you, and a good number of our parishes, including St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish community, have already taken this message to heart.  I want to thank you for your generosity and Christian witness.

As we enter a new year, may we look to the example of Mary, whose feast we celebrate today.  The gospel portrays her as always being open to God’s will, even when she didn’t fully understand all that was to happen.  In today’s gospel passage, she is pictured as treasuring the events that surround Jesus’s birth and pondering them in her heart.  Mary understood that God’s desire for our good is made manifest in Jesus, her son.  That is how God has blessed us and turned his face toward us.  Jesus is the full assurance of God’s love for us.

So, on this feast of Mary, the Mother of God, let us invite Mary to be with us in prayer as we reflect on the pattern of our own lives going forward into 2018.  Let us ask her to help us to remain faithful, even when all the pieces don’t come together easily to make a clear picture.  Let us ask that, through her intercession, we may have the gifts of understanding, patience, and courage that we need.

On my own behalf and on behalf of Fr. Shawn Hughes, Deacon Blaine Barclay, and all who serve here at the Cathedral, best wishes for a happy and joyous new year.