Tag Archives: New Years

The newness of the Babe

These are some notes, in English, that I used for my two homilies yesterday, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

The New Year here comes in with firecrackers and lots of noise.

But in the church today we also celebrate something new.

Although the church year began 5 weeks ago, a week ago we celebrated something completely new – as in the second reading: God came down and became a human being.

The Church in her wisdom realizes that there are certain events you cannot celebrate in one day – so today is the eighth day, the octave.

We celebrate this newness
–  God become human, not remaining in the clouds, lounging in a hammock.

But we celebrate in a different manner.

His birth was greeted by angels appearing to shepherds
and he was born in a manger

There were no firecrackers, just the silence of the night.

But even more he came down as a poor baby in a manger.

The shepherds may have been expecting a splendid child, like the kings
– but the splendor they recognize is in the face of a baby.

It’s something that we can best understand if we follow the example of Mary.

She turned all these things over in her heart.

And so today we celebrate Mary the Mother of God,
the woman who said yes and thus was God’s choice for the incarnation of his son.

Jesus is God, but he is completely human – born as a babe,
but a baby who reveals God to us in a different manner
– not with the splendor and panoply of a rich king
but with a simple couple who find no room at the inn.

Here is God-with-us

Today is a feast of God’s tender love for us, of the newness of His love.
– He wants to be with us, in a family,
– He wants to show us his face – more, he wants the splendor of his face in a tiny babe.

Today is also the day of Prayer for World Peace, which we will actually celebrate in the diocese on Saturday. But this is the day, this is a time to begin anew:
– To seek peace.
– To be like the shepherds, willing to open their eyes to see God in a tiny babe,
– To seek the Light that has come into a world of darkness, a light that helps us see how to live together as children of God.

And so we seek the blessing that we find in the first reading, a blessing used by Saints Francis and Clare:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord shine his face on you and have mercy on you.
The Lord look upon you with kindness and give you peace.

And may we recognize the shining glory of God in the babe born in Bethlehem and in the faces of all the poor of world whom we gaze upon with kindness – as God gazes on us.

God nursed at Mary’s breast

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

For most Catholics, the words “Mother of God” trip off the tongue, without thought. But this was not always so.

Nursing Mother of God

In the fifth century Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, claimed that Jesus was two persons – divine and human – and that it was not right to call Mary the mother of God, the Theotokos, but she was the mother of Christ, the Christotokos. It would thus be offensive to him to say that God was nursed at his mother’s breast.

But at the Council of Ephesus in 431, Mary was proclaimed the Θεοτοκος, the bearer of God.

God did not play at being human; in Jesus God became flesh, like us (in all but sin). He suffered, he cried; he enjoyed the company of friends and he ate with others. He was fully human, as well as fully God. His was not a split personality – but an integration of human and divine.  As Galatians 4:4 puts it: “God sent his Son, born of a woman.”

Thus, for us holiness is to be lived out in the ordinary things of our daily human lives. How we respond to our families and friends, how we carry out our daily labors, how we love family, friends, and enemies – that’s how we let God’s holiness take hold of our lives.

On this first day of the year many of us make resolutions, proposals on how we will change our lives.

But the first, most important change ought to be something very simple, yet often so difficult: be attentive to God in the ordinary things of our daily lives.

There we may encounter God, who will make us holy.


The image of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus is on the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is, according to Richard McBrien in Lives of the Saints, the oldest church dedicated to Mary in Rome. It is also the “station” church for today.