Hundreds of people welcomed in 2019 by gathering for a New Year’s Day Mass, celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. On January 1, the Catholic Church celebrates a feast day honoring Mary as Mother of God, and during the Mass, the bishop said that Mary sets an example for all of us to follow.
“The new year began last night with great festivity. It will be lived, however, for the next 365 days in the normal way in which life passes. How can we keep the meaning and lessons of Christmas alive in our hearts even after we take down the Christmas lights? Mary, whose motherhood we remember in a special way today, continues to speak to us,” the bishop said. “Mary didn't let life drown out the beauty and wonder of Christmas. St. Luke tells us that ‘Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.’ We would do well to do the same.”
Bishop Deeley said that while a new year is always a time of hope, it is also a time to remind ourselves of what does not change and what we can always count on – that God will be with us.
“The God who came to be with us at Christmas is always with us,” the bishop said. “He chooses to take on a face and a person and a name which is indeed turned toward humanity. What we hear in the Gospel is the message of Christmas. God wants to draw closer to us. The infant in the manger is Emmanuel, God-with-us. God speaks to us. He seeks to be close to us.”
The bishop noted that while we don’t hear Mary speak about the birth of her son in the Gospels, tradition tells us that only she could have shared what happened, since so few people were there. The bishop said the Blessed Mother chose her words carefully, using the example of the shepherds to show us the way a Christian life should be lived.
First, the bishop said, we are told the shepherds ‘went in haste’ to find Christ in the stable cave in Bethlehem.
“They were eager to meet the Savior, to spend time with him, to get to know him, to receive his blessing. That's why Jesus came to earth in the first place - so that we could more easily find him,” the bishop said. “Our own time is no different from past ages. Jesus is the source of all those things we seek. He is our salvation. That's the significance of the name ‘Jesus,’ which means ‘God saves.’ This is what Christ comes to give us. This is why we, like the shepherds, should be eager to go and look for Christ, to ‘make haste’ to find him each day in prayer, refection on Scripture, and the sacraments.”
Secondly, the bishop said, the shepherds ‘made known the message that had been told them,’ making them the first evangelizers.
“They felt a need to share it, to tell others about the Savior. The shepherds were the very first heralds of the Good News,” the bishop said. “That is our call as well. In the message of Jesus and the meaning it brings to life, I find joy. Share it!”
Thirdly, the bishop said, we are told the shepherds ‘returned glorifying and praising God.’
“The shepherds were so full of this joy that they couldn't hold it in. That is something good for us to remember,” the bishop said. “The message of Christ is a joyful one. He has saved us. He has shown us a way of life. He has helped us to know that we are loved, and we are called to love.”
The Church's honoring of Mary as the Mother of God can be traced back centuries to the Council of Ephesus in 431. However, it wasn't until 1974 that Saint Paul VI established the solemnity on the first day of each year, the octave of Christmas, calling the feast “a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace.”
By celebrating a solemnity dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church draws attention to the important role she played in our salvation and in the life of Jesus.