January 1, 2021 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Numbers 6, 22-27 + Psalm 67 + Galatians 4, 4-7 + Luke 2, 16-21
We come into this holy place today to bear witness to our faith and begin a new year in the place where our hope will be strengthened, where we shall celebrate again and again the great mysteries that reveal God’s love for us. We begin this year as we have in years past by reading aloud a Gospel that proclaims the mighty name of Jesus. It is a Gospel that sets before us the truth of what we celebrated a week ago, a truth that is the reason for our hope and the source of our strength: God is with us. We are not orphans in this life. We are not helpless nor hopeless. To affirm this truth, the Church puts before us this day, Mary, the Mother of God.
When in the fourth century, to settle once and for all the matter of Christ’s divinity, the Fathers of the Church, meeting in the Greek city of Ephesus, chose the word: Theotokos to express as clearly as possible the true identity of Jesus Christ. In doing so, they put before us one who had found favor with God, who is full of grace. A new year begins with a Feast in her honor. That old saying: “Like mother, like son” is today affirmed by us who see in the life of her son the values, the compassion, and the hopes of the mother. She who sang out her dreams and her hopes that the lowly would be lifted up, that the rich would be sent away empty, that the strength of God’s arm would scatter the proud in their conceit, and that every generation would know mercy, formed her son with this dream and this promise made to Abraham and his children forever.
A great Dominican theologian called: Meister Eckhart, way back in the 13th century preached that “We are all mothers of God”, for “God is always waiting to be born.” My friends, it is true, what we have celebrated is not something from the past. God is still waiting to be born in loveless stables, and forgotten caves. God is waiting to be born in the Bethlehems of anger, estrangement, and hopelessness. God is waiting to be born in the Nazareths of our own homes. The title: “Theotokos” means “Bearer of God”. Is that not what we are called to be? That great and holy handmaid of the Lord, with whom we pray so easily, can teach us how to give birth to the Word and the Presence of God.
We have a place in God’s plan, each of us, in union with Christ we have become a new humanity set in place to show a restored image and likeness of God to a world struggling to get past the habits of war, exploitation, tribalism, and egoism. The future of this planet and human life is at stake held in a shaky balance now as we ponder things in our hearts and decide that peace is possible when there is justice and a just sharing of the earth’s resources building a genuine global community as the family of God. That family has a mother. Mary is held up as a sign of hope. A world and a people that treasures women and children will, by God’s grace, evolve to claim a future that finally becomes the Kingdom of God.