The readings today remind me that God does things His way and not the way that man would do them. When Jesus came into the world He was born to a young woman who was not married yet and had not moved in with her husband yet. He was born in a stable and his first visitors were the shepherds who had heard the word of His birth from angels. At that time being a shepherd was a lowly profession, these were dirty, smelly and uneducated people and yet these were the people God chose to announce to other men that His Son had entered the world.
We have become accustomed to the sons of kings being born and brought up in palaces, with formal announcements and over exuberant media in attendance announcing the new birth to the whole world. However, Jesus did not enter the world with lots of publicity, albeit, his coming had been foretold by the prophets, those few shepherds did not have the reach of the BBC or Sky News.
These witnesses helped to confirm to Mary His Mother, that this birth was extraordinary; she already knew that she had given birth without the loss of her virginity; the visit of the shepherds and their explanation of how they came to know about Jesus astounded all those who heard; but Mary already knew and she treasured and pondered these things in her heart.
As Christians, what do we treasure and ponder in our heart? How do we treasure our Christian faith? How would others recognise that we treasure it?
Since the earliest days of the Church Mary has been recognised as the Theotokos which means God bearer, she is the Mother of God and as we know, through our baptism she is our mother too. We do not worship Mary as a God, after all she was human, but we do pray to Mary as our mother and as the Mother of God, because Mary leads us to Christ and acts as intercessor on our behalf.
I pray to Mary every day. When I get in the car I say a decade of the Rosary, when I am asked to pray for someone, I pray a Hail Mary, when I read online that someone needs prayer, I pray a Hail Mary. I heard not so long ago that not one of these prayers goes unanswered and that we may never know or hear of the grace our prayers have enabled.
Over Christmas my wife and I have both been poorly and we have restarted watching a programme called ‘The Chosen’. One of the scenes which stood out for me again, was how Mary interceded at the wedding in Cana. Jesus thought his hour had not yet come, but Mary pleaded with Him and then instructed the servants to ‘Do whatever He tells you.’ When we pray to Our Lady, she takes our pleas and asks Jesus to extend His help to us. It is one of the reasons Jesus gave Mary to us; via St John, while He was dying on the cross.
The blessing given in the first reading from the Book of Numbers is a beautiful blessing, it is asking God to bless us, keep us safe, keep a watchful eye on us and to bring us peace. The 1st of January every year is marked by the Pope as a World Day of Prayer for Peace. As we are aware there are wars going on around the world, the most reported in our country being the war in Ukraine.
But as Catholics living in Portsmouth Diocese, we should redouble our prayers to pray for peace in our twin diocese of Bamenda. A war has been simmering there for several years and goes mostly unreported. This has resulted in many being displaced and many schools having to close.
Pope Francis asks us to remember that during the Covid pandemic, we realised that we are all connected and that we all rely on one another. He says that the war in Ukraine is causing damage all around the world as it affects the food supply and the supply of fuel to places in many other parts of the world. He asks us to be generous of heart in our response to these situations, but above all to pray for peace. The Cafod website has more of the Pope’s message and links for prayers and other resources. May Our Lady Queen of Peace ask God to restore Peace to our world.
The second reading is a reminder to all Christians that we are sons and daughters of God through our baptism. This came about because Mary said ‘yes’ when the angel visited her and agreed to God becoming man through her womb. We would not have been able to become God’s adopted children, if Mary had not agreed. God would have then had to find another way to bring mankind back to Him.
The start of a New Year is often a time when we look to make changes to our lives. Some may be contemplating a dry January, or a meat free January based on current health campaigns. As Catholics we are being invited to read the Catechism in a Year via the Ascension podcast, this is an opportunity for us to understand our Faith better and to appreciate the full beauty of the Catholic Church. [I have placed a link below in the further reading section]. We are being encouraged to sign up for this, opening our hearts to a fantastic resource which many of us already have sitting on our bookshelves.
I wish you all a Happy New Year and pray that 2023 sees peace being restored to this world and that the love of Jesus enters every heart encouraging us all to do our own little bit to make our world a better place.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 464-469: Jesus Christ, true God and true Man
CCC 495, 2677: Mary is the Mother of God
CCC 1, 52, 270, 294, 422, 654, 1709, 2009: our adoption as sons
CCC 527, 577-582: Jesus submits to the Law, and perfects it
CCC 580, 1972: the New Law frees from restrictions of the Old Law
CCC 683, 689, 1695, 2766, 2777-2778: in the Holy Spirit we can call God “Abba”
CCC 430-435, 2666-2668, 2812: the name of Jesus
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Peace between all Nations.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those in business who have the power to make decisions to help the poor.
- All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
- Those attending our RCIA programme.
- The repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, may he rest in peace and rise in glory.