Tuesday, 1 January 2019 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate both the first day of the new year in the Gregorian calendar, the first day of January, and also the occasion of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, or also known in the original Greek title, Theotokos. This day, we commemorate on the last day of the Christmas Octave, Mary as the Mother of not just any ordinary man, but of God Himself in Jesus Christ, her Son, born from her womb.

In order to appreciate better the nature of the celebration today, we should look deeper into the history of the Church and the nature of our faith and the identity of Mary within our Christian beliefs. Today’s celebration of Mary as the Mother of God is indeed an important one, for this belief in Mary as the Mother of God came from the very core of our faith, in our belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, was none other than God Himself, Who become incarnate as Man through Mary.

In the early days of the Church, the many diverging views and thoughts, beliefs and practices among the Christians became a great concern, as some of the leaders of the Church subscribed to the unorthodox and heretical ways of teaching the faith, and spreading false ideas and teachings among the people of God. And of particular concern is the identity of Christ, the Saviour of the world, and that of His mother, Mary.

Now we all know that Jesus Christ, Our Lord, is no less than both Divine and Man, full in His divinity and full in His humanity, having these two natures, divinity and humanity perfectly united and yet distinct, in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. His divinity is never diminished by His assumption of humanity, and neither is His humanity is diminished by His divinity. Jesus is truly God and truly Man, united in His person, as the Son of Mary.

This is when the title granted to Mary, as the Mother of God and confirmed by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, is truly crucial in the correct understanding of our Christian faith. For at that time, the Church was divided bitterly among those who claimed that Mary, as a human being, could not have been the mother of God, but only merely the mother of Jesus Christ, a human being. In the same argument then, they also argued that the One born of Mary was only a human being and separated from God the Divine.

But that was the lie which the devil had sown into the hearts and minds of men, in trying to spread falsehoods and heresies among the people of God. The devil does not desire to see mankind saved and liberated from their sins and wickedness, and thus, he sowed the lies and the divisions that prevented many from being able to find the true path of salvation in God, in doubting that Mary is the mother of God, and therefore, doubting the divinity of Christ Himself.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, although the theology behind the true nature of Christ, His divinity and humanity is indeed a mystery of our faith, but with simple common sense and understanding, we should see why Mary is indeed the mother of God. If we truly believe that Jesus Christ, Our Lord, is truly fully God and fully Man, having two distinct nature of human and the divine in Him, and yet, inseparable and cannot be distinguished, as the two natures are united perfectly in Him.

Therefore, it is illogical and not right for us to say that Mary, is just the mother of a man, or just the mother of the human half of Jesus, because Jesus is both God and Man, and cannot be separated into either or into halves. If such a division is impossible, and if we cannot say that should we divide our own body into halves and that each half is still us, then we cannot say that Mary is only the mother of Jesus Christ the Man. If we believe that Jesus is God, then Mary is, the Mother of God.

Mary occupies a special place in our faith, because of this honour that Christ has bestowed on His mother based on the natural law, of her having had the Lord and Saviour in her womb for nine months, born of her own flesh and blood, and being the one who loved Him and took care of Him, and followed Him all the way to the foot of the cross, as a loving mother to her Son, Our Lord, Saviour and God.

In the ancient times, the mother of the king often occupy a special place in the kingdom as the queen mother of the kingdom, whose experience and wisdom were often sought by the king and also even by his advisors. The example for this is king Solomon, whose mother, Bathsheba, the wife and queen of Solomon’s father David, sat by the right side of the king on a separate throne, and Solomon often conferred with her.

Now, let us imagine the parallel with Christ and Mary. Our Lord Jesus is the King of Kings, the Lord and Master of all the universe, of all creation. If Solomon’s mother occupied such an important seat in her son’s kingdom, and if Solomon himself listened to the advice and the words of his mother, then how can Our Lord Jesus not honour His own mother, Mary, in the same manner? That is why, Mary, as the blessed Mother of God, is so special for us all.

And even more importantly, Mary is not just the mother of God, but in fact, also the mother of all mankind, of all of us, which her Son proclaimed symbolically from the cross, when He entrusted her to the care of His disciple, St. John, and at the same time, entrusting St. John to His mother’s care as well. By that action, in truth, Mary was entrusted to all of us, as our mother, and we are also entrusted to her as if we are her own children.

That is why, Mary has tried to help us so many times, appearing in various places at various times, particularly during times of war and great conflict, when mankind sinned in such a way that so many of the souls of men could have been lost, if it was not for the intervention of Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, who loves us just as much as she loves her Son. She does not want us to be lost to her, and that is why, she is directing us all to her Son.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our lives, especially as today we also mark the beginning of our current new year. Let us imitate and follow the examples of Mary in our actions and in how we devote ourselves to God. Let us learn from Mary, how we should give our whole being to the Lord, and obey Him just as she had obeyed His will and responded in such a way, that she surrendered herself to His will.

And because Mary, as mentioned, is at the right hand of God, her Son, let us also ask her, our best intercessor, to pray for us. Just as the Lord Jesus even listened to the pleas of Mary, asking Him to help the wedding couple in trouble in Cana, surely, by the intercession of Mary, we too shall be given the favour that we need, providing that everything is also within what God wants from us. Let us all therefore, from now on, reach out to the Lord, through His most blessed and loving mother, Mary, who is also our mother.

O Holy Mary, most blessed among women and blessed mother of God, pray for us all your adopted children, that all of us may find our way to your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray for us, o mother of God, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 16-21

So the shepherds came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger. On seeing Him, they related what they had been told about the Child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the Angels had told them.

On the eighth day the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed; He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Galatians 4 : 4-7

But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God.

And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son which cries out : Abba! That is, Father! You yourself are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the peoples praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 6 : 22-27

Then YHVH spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them : This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say : May YHVH bless you and keep you! May YHVH let His face shine on you, and be gracious to you! May YHVH look kindly on you, and give you His peace!”

“In that way they put My Name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the very first day of the new year, we always celebrate together with the entire Universal Church, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. On this day we celebrate together for Mary, the holy woman whom God has appointed to become the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and today’s celebration is very closely linked to a core tenet of our faith, and it was very significant in the development and history of the Church.

As Christians, all of us believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, is not just mere Man, but is also God Incarnate, united in the person of Jesus. We believe that He is the Son of Man, precisely because He was born of a woman, as do any other men or women. He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, and thus He was a member of humanity, and He did really exist in the flesh, able to experience human sufferings and emotions as hunger, sorrow, and were able to be tempted by the devil, and eventually, suffered pain and anguish, leading up to His death on the cross.

All of these would not have been possible should Jesus Our Lord is only a Divine being, and not Man. That is why there are many of those who cannot comprehend what the Church and our faith teach about the nature of Our Lord and Saviour, as both God and Man at the same time. That also lead them to the lack of faith and belief in the crucifixion of Christ, for if Jesus Christ is merely God and not Man, He could not have suffered or died. God could not have died, for He is omnipotent and omnipresent.

That is why we believe that He is truly a Man, for He was born of Mary, walked in this world, and experienced all the things that we mankind have also experienced, all the challenges and sufferings in life, except for the complete absence of sin, for Jesus is the perfect Man, the New Adam, through Whom God wanted to save us all from our sins. And He is also God, because no Man could have saved us mankind from our sins, and only God can forgive us from our sins. But then, why is it that today’s celebration is actually so important for our faith and for the Church?

That was because, there were so many different opinions and schools of thought in the Church during its early centuries, as well as private interpretations by several groups and charismatic priests and leaders that ended up causing divisions and serious disagreements within the Church at the time, especially the one concerning the nature of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, His nature and truth, His identity and reality, on whether He was just merely Man, or whether He was just God, or whether He was both Man and God, but again some were later divided on whether this humanity and divinity were separate or mixed together and indistinguishable.

And on the very first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the heresy of Arianism was condemned officially by the Church. This heresy, based on the teaching of the popular priest Arian, taught that while Jesus is the Son of God, but He is not equal to God the Father because He was created by the Father and not existing with Him from before the beginning of time. This heresy was officially condemned, and the Church stood by the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and as the Divine Word incarnate, He is equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity.

Then dispute quickly arose again regarding the nature of His divinity and humanity. While as we discussed just earlier, that Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour is both equally Man and God, but at that time, people disagree on whether the person Jesus Christ we see in the Gospels is just a Man, and distinct and separate from the divinity of the Son of God, a position which was championed by another heretic, Nestorius, or whether Jesus Christ is both Man and God, united in the person of Jesus.

This is the very reason for the Church to officially declare Mary as the Mother of God, or in Greek, Theotokos, as the one who bore God into the world, as His mother. The supporters of Nestorius preferred to call Mary as Christotokos, or the one who bears Christ. And they preferred this title because it suited their false theology separating the divinity from the humanity of Christ, by saying that Mary is merely just the mother of the human Jesus and not the divine Son of God.

We may think that such a squabble and conflict was unnecessary and meaningless, but in reality, it is very important, as if the wrong teachings about the nature of Mary as the Mother of God managed to triumph over the truth, it would definitely also affect the truth and the teaching about the nature of Our Lord and Saviour as well. Those who denied that Mary is the Mother of God naturally also denied the fact and truth that Jesus Christ Our Lord is God and Divine.

In the end, those who defended the truth triumphed, and until today, the Church preserved the truth, and now we celebrate this very important feast day, on the very first day of the year based on the ancient tradition that the first day of the month of January is dedicated to honour the motherhood of Mary. She is indeed the mother who gave birth to Jesus the Messiah, and because Jesus is both God and Man, having human and divine natures united in the person of Jesus, Mary is therefore also the mother of God.

And that is exactly why we honour Mary such as we exalt her above all that of the other saints. Yet, we also do not worship her as if she is a divinity. After all, even though she was conceived without sin by God’s will in order to be a worthy and perfect vessel for His Son, but she is still a human being just like us. Yet, she is the perfect role model for each and every one of us, as she obeyed the Lord faithfully and followed His commandments, surrendering herself completely to His designs and plans.

While our first ancestors Adam and Eve said no to the Lord by their disobedience, and even though many of us mankind refused to listen to Him and preferred to go on our own way and follow our own desires and designs, but Mary said yes to the Lord when He revealed to her the divine plan of salvation through the Archangel Gabriel. She lived righteously and devoted herself entirely to love her Son Jesus.

Thus again, we honour her such, because of her extraordinary faith, on top of her motherhood of God. And we are all indeed very fortunate to have this greatest among all saints and intercessors, who is constantly praying for our sake and interceding for us, as she is indeed the closest one to her Son, Our God, at the side of His heavenly throne and glory. And just like at the wedding of Cana, when Jesus listened to His mother, even though He was reluctant to perform a miracle there, He performed it because He also listened to His mother’s petition on behalf of the wedding couple in distress.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin a new year, which will be filled with its own unique challenges and opportunities, let us all seek to imitate the examples of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, in her faith and commitment to God. Let us all strive to become like her in our own respective lives. We have to be thankful that God has given her to us, as a great gift. When she was entrusted by her Son from the cross to St. John, He also entrusted us to her. We are her adopted children as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all pray that we may always live faithfully from now on, inspired by the faith of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and we remember always this important tenet of our faith, and keep it faithfully with us, so that we may not fall into the temptation of false teachings which had so much divided the Church and our faith in the past.

Let us all ask Mary, the mother of God for her constant intercession, that she will continue to watch over us, her beloved children, that all of us will be able to eventually find our way towards the Lord, our loving God, her Son. Let us all draw closer to God, through Mary, through whom we can find the best and straightest path to His salvation and grace. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 16-21

So the shepherds came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger. On seeing Him, they related what they had been told about the Child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the Angels had told them.

On the eighth day the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed; He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived.