Sunday, 1 January 2023 : Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday and New Year’s Day we celebrate together as the whole Universal Church the great celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, as we also mark the last day of the Christmas Octave, that is the eighth day of Christmas. On this day we honour Mary, whom the Church had honoured greatly with the title of the Mother of God, which is also one of the four Marian Dogmas, the Dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, stating that Mary is truly the Mother of God by her being the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world and the Son of God. Because we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, therefore it is only natural that Mary should also be the Mother of God, as the Mother who brings forth into this world God Himself, incarnate in the flesh.

Back then, in the early Church, there was significant divisions and disagreements between various members of the Church and teachers of the faith regarding the nature of the Lord and also the relationship between Mary and her Son as the Saviour of the world. Some within the Church, like those who followed the heretical Arius, claimed that the Lord Jesus was not co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father, and was merely a created being, and as such, the disagreements also extended to Mary’s nature, on whether she was the Mother of God or whether she was merely the mother of Jesus the Man, the Man born in Bethlehem in Judea about two millennia ago. There were also other heretical thoughts developing afterwards on the extremes of Monophysitism and Nestorianism. The former contended that the human and divine natures of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was one and indivisible, meanwhile the latter contended that the human and divine natures of the Lord were separate.

It was thus against the false teachings of Nestorius that this Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is celebrated, reminding all of us not just that Mary is truly the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Jesus Christ, as Nestorius and his supporters contended, but also in our core belief that the Lord Jesus Christ, is not merely just Man, but also God in His nature and existence. If the same Jesus Christ that Mary had given birth in Bethlehem is not truly God, then we cannot call Mary as the Mother of God. Our Christian faith believes that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly Man, having two distinct but inseparable natures, Divine and Human. His Divine nature and Human nature are both united in the inseparable bond of perfect love, in the one Person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour of the whole world.

What might have made those people to refuse to believe in the Divine Motherhood of Mary was likely their inability to accept the fact and truth that Mary, as a woman, could have become the Mother of God. They must have contended in their hearts that it was impossible for a mere woman to be the Mother of the infinite and Almighty God. Yet, that was exactly what the Incarnation of the Lord was all about. What we celebrate at Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation of the Divine Word of God, the Son, Who has assumed our humble human nature so that by His coming into this world, in His aspect as the Son of Man, He might unite all of us to Himself, gathering all of us together from being scattered all over the world, the lost sheep of the Lord’s flock, and gathering us as our Good Shepherd that we may find our way back to the Lord and His grace.

At the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and the subsequent Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, the Arian heresy was outlawed and rejected, and a formal form of the Creed which we still use today, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was formulated. This stated that Jesus Christ is indeed Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, as a Triune God, One God with Three Persons of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, highlighting that the Saviour Jesus Christ born into this world and Who died for us on the Cross, was indeed God Incarnate in the flesh. Then, afterwards, in the important Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, the issue of the Divine Motherhood of God was discussed and addressed. Although Nestorius was then the powerful and influential Archbishop of Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire with a lot of support even from the highest positions in the Empire, but his heretical teachings were soundly rejected by those who adhered to the true and orthodox Christian faith.

The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus formalised the Dogma of the Divine Motherhood of God, affirming what the Church and the faithful people of God had believed since the earliest days of the Church, that Mary is truly the Mother of God, and that Jesus Christ is indeed God, appearing before us all as the manifestation of God’s perfect and ever enduring Love. The Love of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, and the love which His mother Mary showed to her Son, and also to all of us, her adopted children, are what we rejoice for on this most blessed day. On this day, as we begin this new solar calendar year, let us all reflect first of all, of the love that God has shown us, and also the love that makes this joyful Christmas season. Without God’s love, we had no reason to rejoice, especially not during this Christmas season.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together today to celebrate in the new year and to rejoice at the glorious Divine Motherhood of God of Mary, Blessed Mother ever-Virgin, let us all hence spend some time to reflect on our way of life and actions, and what we plan to do for this coming year ahead of us. If we have been spending a lot of time the past year and also this Christmas season mostly on worldly things and matter, and in our pursuit of worldly glory, fame, achievements, then perhaps we should reconsider our path and direction in life. We should reconsider once again why we rejoice and celebrate in this season and time of celebration. We should think of why we rejoice and celebrate this new year too. Why do we celebrate? Is it because we enjoy in all the celebrations, revelries and merrymaking? Or is it because we look forward to the opportunities that the new year is going to provide us?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, no one can truly know how the future is going to unfold, and no one knows what will come our way, what opportunities are there for us. It is up to us nonetheless how we are going to live out our lives, whether we are going to walk in the path that the Lord has set before us and shown us, or whether we will rather walk in the path of worldliness and temptations, following the path of those false leaders and guides who had once misled so many among the faithful to the wrong paths. The choice is ours to make, brothers and sisters. How we are going to shape our year ahead is in our hands, and we have been given the free will to choose our course of actions. But we are reminded that should we choose to reject the path of the Lord and continue walking down the path of sin, the reckoning will likely be damnation and destruction for all of us.

As Christians, all of us have been shown good role models and examples for us to follow in our way of life that we may continue to walk down the right path towards God and His salvation. And there is no better example and guide than Mary herself, together with her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are reminded of the love of God which has been shown to us in the most concrete way through Christ, through all that He had done for us, by suffering and dying for us all. He showed us all perfect obedience to the will of His heavenly Father and therefore becoming for us the example of righteousness and faith that we should all follow. Then, His own Mother Mary is also a great role model and example for us, in her unwavering love and faith in her Son, as she continued to care for Him throughout His earthly life, and as she has then showed us all the same love and care as well.

The Lord has entrusted His own Mother to us from His Cross, as He entrusted her to His trusted disciple St. John the Apostle. Similarly, He has also entrusted us all to her, that we all become her own children, to be loved and cared for by this same Mother of God, who has loved her Son so thoroughly. Can we follow our loving Mother in her ways and entrust ourselves to her and to her Son? Can we love the Lord more through His mother Mary, by ensuring that our lives and actions are truly worthy and appropriate of those who call ourselves as Christians? We are reminded again and again this Christmas season of what we are celebrating and what our Christian faith is all about, and hence, let us all begin our new year with the right mindset and spirit, and ensure that we conform ourselves once more to the Lord and His ways. And also, today being the World Day of Prayer for Peace, let us also pray for peace all around the world, particularly in Ukraine, where conflicts still rage on daily after almost a whole entire year, of senseless killings and destructions.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in the year ahead, bless our world and all its peoples with peace and harmony, and with the guidance of His blessed Mother, Mary, the Holy Mother of God, let us all draw ever closer to Him and commit ourselves ever more wholeheartedly to Him, in all of our actions and lives. May God bless our works and efforts, our endeavours in this coming year, and may He bless all of us and our loved ones, at all times. Have a blessed New Year, brothers and sisters! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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