Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the first day of this new year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Theotokos, or Mary as the Mother of God. This is celebrated on the eighth and last day of the Christmas Octave, to remember the very important and crucial role that Mary played in the history of our salvation and in Christmas, because she became the Mother of God by bearing Jesus Christ, Son of God in her.

This teaching and dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, the Theotokos or Mother of God was formalised and made official at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in the year 431, out of the great debate of whether Mary was just the Mother of Jesus Christ the Man, or whether she was also the Mother of God because Jesus Christ is both God and Man, having both human nature and divine nature united in His one person.

During that time, the disagreements in the Church was led on one side by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, who championed the preference to call Mary as Christotokos or Christ-Bearer or Mother of Christ rather than Theotokos or God-Bearer or Mother or God. Although it may have seemed trivial to us as merely involving a variation in the honorary names and titles of Mary, but theologically the two titles highlighted a very fundamental and critical difference in a very core part of our Christian faith.

I am referring to the fact that by denying Mary the title of Theotokos and preferring Christotokos as proposed by the supporters of Nestorius actually also affected the nature of Christ as if Mary is not the Mother of God, but only the mother of Christ the Man, then Jesus’ humanity and divinity cannot have been united in His one persona, but are distinct and separate. This is the view and school of thought championed by Nestorius and his supporters.

The opponents of Nestorius and the champions of orthodoxy held the view that as Christ has two natures which are distinct and yet united in one person of Christ, then Mary who bore Him in her womb and gave birth to Him must also be the Mother of God, as if the humanity of Christ is united perfectly with His divinity, though distinct, then one cannot accept that Jesus is both Man and God without also proclaiming His mother Mary as the Mother of God.

To say that Mary is just the mother of Christ or Christotokos rather than the Mother of God goes against the logic that Mary bore Christ into this world fully in being, giving birth to Jesus Christ, her Son, both God and Man, and she could not have just borne Christ the Man without also bearing His divinity. To imply in any way that Mary is not the Mother of God also in truth denies Christ’s unique two natures united in one person as the true, orthodox faith of the Apostles had always held.

Therefore the debate surrounding the dogma of Theotokos or the Mary as the Mother of God was truly serious as it affected the nature of Christ and His salvation, as heresies of that time had threatened to break the Church apart, with some contending that by Nestorius’ proposition, only Jesus the Man suffered and died on the Cross as God could not have suffered or died, contrary to the true teaching of the faith. This was brought about by the disagreement over the nature of Christ’s humanity and divinity which extends to whether Mary was the Mother of God or just the Mother of Christ.

We may think again that these disagreements may sound trivial and small in importance, but we must really understand and appreciate that the faith as we know it today came about only after many rounds of challenges, divisions, disagreements and heresies trying to misled members of the faithful throughout the long history of the Church, including this disagreement on the Theotokos or Mary as the Mother of God.

During those especially early critical years of the Church, many heresies came about because of the existence of many divergent schools of thought and idea that often disagreed on each other on the nature of Christ’s divinity, on whether His humanity and divinity are united inseparably, or separate into two different and disunited existence, or whether as what we hold in our true faith, that His humanity and divinity exists, though distinct, but united perfectly in the one person of Jesus.

The bitter divisions and divergence in the teachings were threatening the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, and that was why, the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, beginning with the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and eventually to the one we focus on today, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, began codifying and underlining the true and fundamental truths and orthodoxy in faith which we preserve in the Church until today.

Eventually, the supporters of Nestorius lost and the heresy was officially condemned in the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus which made canon and officially declared Mary as Theotokos, the Mother of God. And we rejoice today because of this great blessing which God has bestowed on us all through His mother, the very Mother of God so many of us Christians for ages have entrusted ourselves and devoted ourselves to.

Imagine, brothers and sisters in Christ, how we have the Mother of God herself as our greatest intercessor, as the one who constantly loves us and cares for us, that she, who sits closest to her Son’s throne in heaven, always constantly intercedes for our sake. And being the Mother of God, therefore, it means that she is truly honoured, just as how the kings of Israel and Judah of old honoured their mothers.

We devote ourselves to Mary and ask her for her intercession because we know that through Mary, we have the surest and most direct path to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God Himself entrusted His mother Mary to us from the Cross, when He entrusted her to the care of His disciple, St. John, representing us the Universal Church, and then also entrusted him, again representing the Church, to Mary, His mother.

That is why Mary was always present throughout the history of the Church, in her many apparitions, several of which have been officially approved by the Church, especially appearing at the important juncture in our history and in moments of great darkness, calling on us mankind to turn back towards her Son and to repent from our many sins and evils. And we have to be thankful for the love that she has shown us, the same love with which she loved her Son from all her loving heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we also look up to Mary as our greatest role model, for her great faith and obedience to the will of God throughout her life. We should imitate her example and faith, dedicating ourselves to God through her and by following her inspiring dedication, in giving her whole self to serve the Lord and to glorify Him in all things. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters?

Today, we are also called to keep in mind peace in our world, as today we also mark the World Day of Prayer for Peace, as we begin this new year with a new hope for the whole world for the cessation of conflict and wars, which have brought the worst out of us mankind, causing untold sufferings and destructions. All these wars, conflicts and disagreements, just like the disagreements we just went through in detail earlier on the nature of Mary as the Mother of God, are caused by man’s pride and greed.

As long as we allow ourselves to be swayed by ego and pride, ambition and greed, to be tempted by the many temptations found in this world, listening to the lies and corrupt teachings championed by the devil and his allies and supporters, there will always be divisions, conflicts, sufferings and trials in our world. And this is where, by following Mary and devoting ourselves to her, to imitate her faith and examples, we can break the unending chain of suffering and conflicts.

Let us all ask for Mary to intercede for us, for the Church and for the world, that through her intercession, God may bring His peace into this world, for He is the Prince of Peace promised to us all. And let us all get rid from ourselves all sorts of ego, of pride, of hubris and ambition, of greed and desires, and instead, put God once again at the centre of our lives and make Him the reason of our existence in this world.

May God continue to bless us, bless His Church and bless this world He has created and provided for us. May His mother Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God also continue to inspire us all His faithful ones, that we may follow in her footsteps and draw ever closer to her Son, Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Lord and Saviour. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.”

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.