Today is the first day of the year 2016. As we begin this new year, we will read and hear how world leaders, church leaders, our families and friends have different views of what they expect this year 2016 to be like. We each have our own perceptions and expectations of what we hope 2016 to be.
To have hopes and dreams are important in life. Otherwise, we would be living an aimless and worse still meaningless life which is a sin in itself. Our Church calls this the “sin of omission.” This sin of omission is our failure to use God’s gifts and blessings meaningfully and purposefully for our own good, the good of others and most importantly for the Greater Glory of God.
Our First Reading from the Book of Numbers give us a good way to begin to live this year 2016 when it prays, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover His face to you and bring you peace.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no better way to begin our new year by asking for God’s blessings, graciousness and peace. There is also no better way to begin this new year by participating in this Mass and offering our whole life especially in the coming months to God for Him to Bless us with His Peace.
The Church begins the first day of each new year by celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. When we celebrate a Feast of Mary, our celebration is more about Christ than about Mary. Today’s celebration of Mary the Mother of God is renewing our faith in Jesus as fully divine and fully human. As Mary conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus who is fully human and fully divine, Mary is therefore the Mother of the full human and divine nature of Jesus. Thus, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary is the Mother of God.
How can we then relate this Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God to our daily living this year 2016? I would like to suggest that instead of writing a list of resolutions, we change our perceptions and expectations of our life. By this, I am suggesting that pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire us and give us the divine Wisdom to put on the perceptions and expectations of Mary, the Mother of God.
There is a story of a rich businessman, Paul who was on his way to a very important meeting that would involve a $20m contract that he hopes will go through so that he could also provide employment to more people, especially the poor and needy.
As Paul was driving pass a church, he was suddenly inspired to stop by to pray for God’s Will and blessings for the meeting. He entered the church, knelt down and started to pray fervently. Just then, an elderly man Jack who was poorly dressed walked into the church also to pray. Jack had come to pray that Jesus would help him settle the $200 debt that he owed the loan shark. There was no way Jack could pay up as he had just lost his job and he had no savings. His sick mother’s medical expenses had used up all his savings. And if he does not pay up today, the loan shark would probably threaten his family or even splash paint on his house.
Paul was distracted in his prayer as he could see and hear Jack praying so fervently for some needs. Paul could not continue his prayer as he was very concerned about what Jack the poor man was going through. So, he went over to Jack and asked him, “Uncle, you look very troubled, is there any way I can be of help? Jack turned to Paul and told him his story. Paul without hesitation took out his wallet and gave Jack $500 and said, “Uncle, take this money and pay the loan shark, and keep the rest for your mother’s medical expenses.” Jack overwhelmed with joy. He fell on his knees and thanked God for answering his prayers.
Paul was happy that he was able to be of help to Jack. As Paul was now running out of time, he said a short prayer and left the church for his meeting. My sisters and brothers in Christ, you may be wondering whether Paul was successful in securing his big contract. While this conclusion of the story is important, the main point of this story is not so much whether Paul’s prayers were answered, but more importantly, how God was able to use Paul to reach out to Jack who was in desperate need.
Paul a good businessman who tries very hard to be successful, does not lose his sense of the reality of people in need around him; whether they are his employees or the poor and needy around him. So, while he went into the church to pray sincerely to succeed in his business venture, God’s Will used him as His instrument to attend to the more urgent need of Jack. As Paul’s heart is conscious of the needs of people and does not live solely for his own selfish needs and success, even as we do not hear the ending of whether Paul was successful in securing the contract of his business, though very important, we can be sure that God would have revealed His Will to Paul whether through the successful conclusion of the business deal or through other ways.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that what is most important for us this new year 2016 is not so much what we want, but what God Wants for us. Mary became the Mother of God precisely because she said “Yes” to the Father’s Will to be the Mother of Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour. Paul lived the Father’s Will by responding to the immediate needs of Jack generously. Jack needed $200 to settle his debt, but Paul gave him $500; more than double because in his sincerity of heart he was able to see more that was asked of him. He saw Jack and his family as his brother and sister in Christ. Thus, he was able to reach out to Jack with joy in his heart, and was even forgetful of his own needs; that he had entered the church to pray for his business contract.
Finally, to capture the theme of today’s celebration of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, I would like us to reflect on this very beautiful “Prayer of Generosity” of St Ignatius of Loyola.
Lord, teach me to be Generous,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to seek for reward,
Save that of knowing I do Your Most Holy Will.
If we are able to pray this prayer daily and make it our own, then we will surely find that our hearts will be more open to the Holy Spirit, who in turn will inspire us and give us the divine Wisdom to put on the perceptions and expectations of Mary, and be more obedient to God’s Will as Paul in our story did in his own ways.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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