New start full of promise and hope

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The first of January marks the beginning of a new year.

It is often a time of personal resolutions that are filled with hope and promise.

There always seems to be something good in a new beginning. In the Catholic tradition, New Year’s Day begins the year with something good; it is a feast dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

This title was given to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431. The council formally declared that Mary was “Theotokos” or “God-Bearer” (Mother of God).

In affirming this title, the council was declaring that Jesus was fully human and fully divine.

In the early years of Christianity there had been various heresies (Gnosticism, Arianism, Docetism, Nestorianism) that questioned either Jesus’ humanity or His divinity.

Councils of bishops, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were able to develop the church’s understanding of the true nature of Jesus – “The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 469).

“Faith seeking understanding” is a phrase from St. Anselm that is used to define theology. An example of this process can be found in the relationship between Jesus, His mother, and the church.

Theology helps us to understand this mystery by looking at ordinary aspects of life like motherhood.

In a recent homily for the Mass in honour of Mary Mother of God (Jan. 1, 2018), Pope Francis states, “Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to ‘keep,’ to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.”

Pope Francis reminds us that all Christians are called to be like Mary; we are to be “Christ bearers” in the world.

With our own hearts filled with God’s love, we are able to bring that love to others.

So it is our faith in Jesus that compels us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). If we could all do this then the world, indeed, would be a much better place in 2018.

For Christians, the best resolution that we can make at the beginning of a new year is to be more like Christ. Mary is the mother of Jesus and she knows her Son.

She also knows our spiritual needs.

With a mother’s gaze lovingly fixed upon us, her spiritual children, she will help us in our desire to be more like her Son.

I wish to conclude with another quote from Pope Francis’homily for New Year’s Day Mass: “May the Mother, God’s finest human creation, guard and keep this year, and bring the peace of her Son to our hearts and to our world. And as children, with simplicity, I invite you to greet her as the Christians did at Ephesus in the presence of their bishops: ‘Holy Mother of God!’.”