New Years Day-Archbishop B. O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Feast of Mary, Mother of God, New Year’s Day 2019


On the first day of the new year, the Church’s liturgy celebrates the feast of Mary, Mother of God, as well as World  Day of Peace.  On this eighth day of Christmas, we focus on Mary’s role in bringing the Prince of Peace into our world.

By “being born of a woman”, as St. Paul expresses it in the second reading, the Son of God took on our human nature, and, as a result, our whole status changed.  Because the Word of God from all eternity took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we now have the capacity to share in the divine life which has been united with our human nature.

What stands out for me on this feast is the way in which Mary approached all that happened.  The gospel passage says that “she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” and what she pondered, and what she treasured, was all that the shepherds had been told by the angel concerning her son.  In the years to come, during Jesus’s public life and death and resurrection, she would have a lot to consider, and yet she did so in a spirit of faith and with trust and confidence in God.  This is how she was able to live the unexpected, both the marvelous and sorrowful events of her life.

The gospel invites us to adopt a similar approach.  New Year’s Day is often seen as a new start.  A lot of people make resolutions to do better: to lose weight, to become more patient and understanding of others, and so forth.  But a new year also has its unknowns, and this requires that we trust in God’s goodness toward us, no matter what happens.

The first reading from the Book of Numbers reminds us that God’s overall stance and desire is for our good; that he looks graciously upon us and wants to give us peace.  In Jesus, we have the definitive sign that this is so.  But we know that the peace of God’s Kingdom that Christ has come to establish – the kingdom of justice, peace, truth, and love – is far from finished.  It remains incomplete in so many ways.  This is the world in which we live today, and the witness of Christians is needed if it is to advance towards completion.  Just over 50 years ago, the then Holy Father, Paul VI, designated January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, as World  Day of Peace, a day for us to pray for God’s gift of peace, as well as to do what we can to work for peace.

Pope Francis, in this year’s Message for World  Day of Peace, spoke of how,

“A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars . . .”  He goes on to say that, “Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights.  One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups.  The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.”

Bringing the subject of peace closer to home, the Holy Father speaks of three inseparable aspects:

– Peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger, and impatience; In the words of St. Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a gift of sweetness to others”;

– Peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering – being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– Peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

As we begin a new year, may Mary, our patron, who brought the Prince of Peace into our world, help us to appreciate peace within ourselves, with others, and with all of creation.

On my own behalf, on behalf of the Rector, Father Shawn Hughes, the Associate Pastor, Father Paul Mawalla, Deacon Blaine Barclay, and all those who serve here at the Cathedral, I wish you a happy new year.