Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion

BIBLICAL APOSTOLATE OF THE PROVINCE

Introducing Fr. Freddie's Gospel Reflections for Multi-purpose

1. These reflections are not written like an essay, but in six precise steps. Choose what you like.

2. They are not meant only for preaching homilies, but for a multi-purpose: for teaching, prayer (either personal or common), reflections and socio-pastoral guidance.

3. They can be used outside the liturgical celebrations also on any other occasions for preaching (by using the same text), private and common prayers, Bible Vigil, Adoration, Prayer Service, Gospel Sharing, conferences, talks, etc.

4. Only the Gospel text prescribed for the Sunday Liturgy in the Catholic Church is used for these reflections, and not the First and Second Readings. The latter are quoted only for reference. Those who want to include them, have to find their own applications.

5. These reflections are written from a pastoral and spiritual perspective, and not from academic or exegetical.

6. The preachers have an option to develop only the focus-statements given in Step 2 on their own into a full-fledged homily. If they want to make their homily shorter, they need not include all the points/thoughts written by the author; instead can select what they like, and (if they want) add their own stories/ anecdotes/ examples.

7. The title, “Gospel Reflections for Life-Promotion” indicates the author’s intention to highlight the life-sustaining or life-saving issues in our world and society in the midst of anti-life forces.

8. Though much of the material presented in these reflections is author's, no claim is made for the originality of all the thoughts and ideas. They are adopted from various authors.

9. Reproduction of these reflections in any form needs prior permission.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Second Sunday of Year A

Second Sunday of Year A [Jn 1:29-34]
15 January 2017
Jesus is the Lamb of God
Readings: (1) Is 49:3.5-6 (2) 1 Cor 1:1-3
1. Theme in brief
Conquering evil by sacrifice
2.  Focus Statement
We are called to continue the mission of Jesus, the Chosen Servant of God who served humanity to the point of sacrificing himself like a sacrificial lamb to conquer evil of the world.
3.  Explanation of the text
In today’s gospel text, we notice John (the Baptist) testifying to Jesus by proclaiming his identity and mission. He does this under four different titles or designations: 
(1) Jesus is the Lamb of God (1:29): This title refers to the paschal lamb slaughtered by the Jews during the feast of Passover in the temple of Jerusalem in remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. But John attributes to this Passover (or Paschal) Lamb Jesus’ mission of taking away the sin of the world (1:29). Actually, as per Jewish faith, Passover lamb did not have such a power. This shows that John connects his idea of Jesus as Paschal Lamb with other texts of the OT, especially with the Suffering Servant of Yahweh who suffers “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” in atonement for our sins (Is 53:7). Jesus “takes away the sin of the world” by taking upon himself our sins or by wiping away our sins by his sacrificial death.
(2) Jesus is the Pre-existent One, that is, the one who was before the Baptist (1:30): Though John was physically born before Jesus, Jesus existed before him as he was with God from the beginning (1:2). Though John knew Jesus as his relative (cousin), he did not know his divine origin and mission fully. It was revealed to him by the Father at the time of baptism of Jesus.
(3) Jesus is the Bearer of the Holy Spirit who descends on him like a dove (1:32): As foretold by the prophets (Is 11:2), the Spirit of the Lord descends on Jesus and rests on him or remains with him. This perpetual abiding of the Spirit makes Jesus the source of the Holy Spirit, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (4:14). Being possessed by the Spirit, Jesus is able to baptize people with the Holy Spirit, so that they too can be possessed by the same Spirit. The descent of the Spirit like a dove implies that he is empowered by the Spirit to purify the world from sin or evil and bring renewal, peace and reconciliation among people, just as the dove in Noah’s time signified this with a green olive leaf in its beak (Gen 8:11).
(4) Jesus is the Son of God: John confesses Jesus as the Son of God, or according to other manuscripts as the Chosen One of God (1:34). Thus John indicates that the Son of God becomes the chosen Servant of God to bring justice to the nations as foretold by the prophet Isaiah (42:1). In other words, Jesus is the Servant of God (= who serves humanity) to the point of sacrificing himself to conquer evil of the world.
4.  Application to life 
In today’s gospel, John identifies the mission of Jesus with that of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh mentioned by Isaiah (53:1-7). As per Isaiah, the Suffering Servant faces all suffering, rejection, humiliation and oppression silently like the sacrificial lamb that is led to the slaughter in Jewish ritual.
This understanding of Jesus’ mission can have any of the following implications for our lives:
(1)  Like Jesus we are called to take away/ overcome/ eliminate/ fight evil in the world. For example, how can we fight and overcome tendencies of aggressiveness, hatred, violence, dishonesty and corruption unconsciously injected into children due to their exposure to the mass media? Or during ethnic and communal conflicts, does paying back violence with violence, solve any of the problems?  Jesus submitted himself to suffering like a sacrificial lamb to give us the example of facing such miseries when we cannot overcome them with our human means or best efforts.
(2)  Like Jesus we are called to carry the burden of our own and the world’s (others’) sins. Sometimes we have to suffer because of others’ sins. For example, today, there are some parents who suffer terribly because of their children who become alcoholics, drug-addicts, delinquents, criminals, or enter into illegal or illicit marriages. Their faith in Jesus the Lamb of God can only give meaning to their mental agony.
(3)  Like Jesus we become ‘sacrificial lambs’ when we make sacrifices and undergo suffering in order to fight/ eliminate evil in the world or try to purify the world from evil.
(4)  Like Jesus we are called to continue the mission of Christ, the Lamb of God, by our solidarity with the suffering and the oppressed people of the world by becoming sacrificial lambs for their cause. Whenever we support people or groups who fight for social justice, oppressive social or political systems, oppose social evils, we may be branded as traitors, betrayers, anti-nationals or unpatriotic, etc. Jesus invites us to take upon ourselves the agony of the poor, the suffering and the oppressed.
(5)  We have to give witness to Christ before a world of contrary opinions by returning good for evil and by our care for those who are not cared for.
Like John the Baptist, we are called to give witness to Christ by making sacrifices so that others may live. To take away sin or evil from society, to eradicate or to fight against evil practices and unjust structures, like Jesus we may have to undergo suffering, criticism, opposition, threats and humiliation. Whenever we make sacrifices and face opposition to liberate the world from evil, we give witness to Christ. We sometimes may feel as if we are sacrificial lambs meant for a slaughterhouse when we oppose social evils or do not compromise with it. Our silent suffering and patient humiliation like Jesus, the Suffering Servant, to take away evil is a wonderful testimony for Christ and his mission. We become counter-witness to Christ when we tolerate all the evil, corruption and injustice of the world out of fear of displeasing others or disliked/ opposed by them. We also tolerate it to avoid sacrifices and challenges involved in tackling social evils.
We can distinguish between two types of sufferings in our lives: (1) those which come without asking (like illness, natural calamities, etc.), (2) and those which we voluntarily embrace out of love for others or for society/ the Church/ Christ’s mission. As Christ willingly and voluntarily embraced his cross, did we any time voluntarily and willingly suffer for others, out of sheer love for them? Those of us who are highly motivated and committed for the service of the poor, eradication of social evils, solidarity with the downtrodden and care of the outcasts and the rejected have to voluntarily embrace crosses of criticism, opposition, rejection, humiliation and intimidation.
Besides, we can distinguish between two types of services: (1) those which we have to render out of compulsion, like our daily work and household chores, and (2) those which we willingly and voluntarily take up for the good of those who are in need of our love. Since any service requires sacrifices, voluntary service will lead to voluntary suffering – not out of compulsion, but out of choice for a cause or for doing good for the needy. One of the reasons why we fail to get involved in any community service  could be our unwillingness to make sacrifices – either of time, services parents, especially fathers, should render is sacrificing their time for guiding and directing their children in righteousness and character. In our families sometimes we expect others to serve us at our beck and call, but fail to give the best of our time, abilities and capacities for the welfare of the family. In many of us there is a tendency to escape from service to the society or the Church if there is no monitory or prestige reward.
We have to always say like John the Baptist that we really do not know God’s ways. Like him, we are called to discover who Jesus is in our life with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides us to discover God’s designs as we seek answers to these questions: Is there any meaning in life? Why there is so much suffering in the world? Can this world groaning with pain of so much violence and the poison of hatred – ethnic, linguistic, religious, racial – be redeemed?
All of us are baptized not only with water but with the Holy Spirit. This implies that we are possessed by the Spirit and are led by him to continue Jesus’ service to the poor, the sick and the suffering. If we are not sensitive to the needs of these people, how can we and others claim that we are filled with the Spirit? The Spirit makes us sensitive to a continual self-purification and empowers us to fight a good fight to purify human society from evil. We need to examine whether there were occasions when we became insensitive to the presence of the Spirit in us and became deaf to his promptings.
5.  Response to God's Word
Do we willingly undergo suffering and humiliation to take away others’ sins? Do we bring up children in modern comfort culture without teaching them the values of sacrifice, which involves giving up of our personal comforts for the welfare of others? Do we give witness to Christ by making sacrifices to liberate the world from evil and corruption? Do we compromise with evil and immoral ways of the world in order to avoid inconvenience and displeasure of people? Do we cultivate a ‘culture of silence’ when we should open our mouth to speak what is right or show our disapproval of evil ways? Do we open our hearts and minds to the promptings of the Spirit so that we become sensitive to the needs of the poor and are attuned to the cries of the suffering?
6. A prayer
Jesus, from the day of your baptism till death, you remained faithful to your mission as the Suffering Servant of God. You served humanity to the point of sacrificing yourself like a sacrificial lamb to conquer evil of the world. We feel sorry for the times we were unwilling to face criticism, opposition and humiliation to take away evil in our society. Sometimes, instead of fighting evil we compromised with it, out of fear of rejection, criticism and opposition. Sometimes we became insensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in us and became deaf to his voice. We ask your forgiveness for these failures. Grant that we may discover more and more your presence in all people, especially among the poor, the sick, the suffering and the marginalized with the enlightenment of Holy Spirit. Amen.



Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Feast of Epiphany (A)

Feast of  Epiphany of the Lord [Mt 2:1-12]
06 or 08 January 2017
The Visit of the Wise Men from the East
Readings: (1) Is 60:1-6 (2) Eph 3:2-3.5-6
1.  Theme in brief
Seeking and finding the Lord
2.   Focus Statement
Christian life is an on-going process of searching for and finding the Lord under divine guidance, and after finding him offering ourselves to him.
3.   Explanation of the text
Today’s gospel begins by stating that in the time of king Herod another King of the Jews was born (2:1-2). When the wise men (magi or astrologers) from the East came to Jerusalem to enquire about this King, Herod was shaken and frightened (2:3). He suspected a dangerous plot against him by a rival king. Hence he asked the wise men to find the child and report to him that child’s whereabouts, so that he could kill him, and not adore him, as he cunningly said (2:8).
The magi who came from the East represent the gentile world. Their searching and finding Jesus implies that he is born not only for the chosen people (Jews), but for all. As he is the universal Saviour, now the gentiles also can search for him in faith and find him. The rising star which these astrologers observed (2:2) can mean two things: (1) The newborn King of the Jews (Jesus) is the ‘Star’ that has risen, as it is written in the Book of Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2).  (2) It also symbolises divine guidance; in other words the light or medium that led or guided them to the divine child.
We can observe three issues in this text: (1) the fear of the worldly ruler (Herod) for a rival king born in his kingdom and the possibility of losing his power; (2) the refusal of the religious leaders of Israel (chief priests and scribes) to accept the Messiah when he is born; and (3) the joyous welcome and adoration given by the gentile representatives from the East (the magi) who receive the light of faith to recognize him. Here Matthew contrasts the rejection of Jesus by the chosen people with the faith or fidelity of the gentile wise men. The sole intention of the magi was to pay ‘homage’ to the newborn King. This word ‘homage’ mentioned three times in this text (2:2, 8, 11) also means prostrating before him or adoring him.
The gentile wise men were not in possession of divine revelation of the Scriptures, as the Jews were. Yet, they seemed to have received revelation through natural science (astrology). But they had to confirm it through the Scriptures. Hence, the star, instead of leading them directly to Bethlehem made a detour via Jerusalem. The pundits of Jerusalem confirm through their Scriptures that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (2:4-5). What a contrast: those who were in possession of the Scriptures and were specially chosen by God to receive the Messiah refuse to believe in him or worship him; but those who were not privileged become models of simple faith, adoration and inner joy (2:10).
The wise men opened their treasure chests and offered Jesus the gifts of gold (owned mostly by kings) to symbolise that he was the spiritual King; frankincense (or incense used by priests during worship) to symbolize that he was the High Priest or Mediator between God and men, and myrrh (a perfume used to anoint corpses) to indicate that he was born to die for his people.
4.  Application to life
Life is a search. All humans search for happiness. They want to be relieved from all obstacles to happiness such as pain of suffering, loneliness, frustration, despair, failure and harsh realities of life. Some seek temporary or momentary relief from these problems by taking drugs, alcoholic drinks and indulging in sexual pleasures. But where is lasting happiness? We need to gain access to the reservoir or the source of true happiness. As Christian disciples we believe that Jesus is this source. Therefore, we believe that lasting happiness can be found by seeking Jesus and finding him, or by seeking after his values such as truth, peace, salvation…. Hence, Christian life is an on-going process of searching for and finding Jesus who continually takes birth today in our world/situations.
This continual birth of Christ is also called his ‘Epiphany’ or his manifestation (or revelation of his light). He reveals (manifests) himself to us in various ways and invites us to respond to his love like the wise men. The rising star which the wise men observed can symbolise three different things: first, in faith we believe that Jesus himself is the greatest Star or light that has risen amidst the darkness of this world. Therefore, like the magi we have to always ask in our imagination as well as in all situations, “Where is the newborn King? Where and how can I find him and experience true peace and happiness which come from him?”
Secondly, in our search for the greatest Star (Lord Jesus), there are other ‘stars’ that guide or lead us in this pursuit. Those stars are the media through which we can find the Lord. They are the symbols divine guidance which comes to us in various ways – through the grace of God, an enlightenment we receive from God or his Spirit, a passage of Scripture by which God himself speaks to us, guidance of our parents/ teachers/ counsellors/ friends, or through prayer and sacraments. This guiding light could be even the poor people with whom Jesus identifies himself (cf. Mt 25:35-40), or various events of our personal and world history through which the Lord manifests himself to us.
Thirdly, since Jesus is the universal Saviour, we have the duty to lead those who do not know him to his throne of salvation. When we do so, we become like stars that shine before others so that they come to know him. We can say that in our world today, the magi represent all the people of other faiths. The light of Christ shines before those who do not know him through our life and witness. Our conduct either shines before them like a star or misleads them. Having received the light of faith, if we do not shed that light before those who do not have it, or if we give counter-witness (bad example), we become like the religious leaders of Israel (pundits of Jerusalem). Like them we have the Scriptures with us but are not led by its light. Therefore, Epiphany is a great missionary feast, which invites us to share our faith with others in word and deed (by our witness). Then we too become “a light of revelation to the gentiles” (Lk 2:32), as Christ himself was. If the personal and striking witness given by Pope Francis about simplicity and option for the poor is imitated by the rest of the Church and her leaders, there could be a new ‘epiphany’ of the Lord in our world.

Our discovery of the Lord should lead us to a faith-response like the wise men – of wonder, joy, adoration and offering of ourselves (or whatever we have) to him. Since gold was possessed by kings in those days, today our discovery of Jesus leads us to accept him as the King of our hearts; since frankincense was offered to God by priests, today we accept him as the High Priest who mediates between God and us; and since myrrh was used to anoint the dead, we accept and believe in the one who is born to offer his life in sacrificial death for us. Once we find him after seeking him diligently, like the wise men, we too are called to offer him our own ‘gold, frankincense and myrrh,’ that is, all that we are and all the we have, in fact, our whole life as an act of self-giving and surrender
Like Herod, there are forces and groups today in various parts of the world, who are opposed to Christ’s values and plot to destroy them by threatening and intimidating those who stand for those values. For example, the activities of missionaries/ social activists/ voluntary agencies among the underprivileged people in the fields of education, social awareness and human rights, pose a threat to those who want to exploit or subjugate them. There are people or groups with vested interests who conspire against this service or work of liberation just like Herod. The question is whether we will withdraw our service to the poor out of fear of opposition or threat from these forces, or continue to be faithful witnesses of Christ as lights of revelation of his love.
5.  Response to God's Word
We praise God for having revealed his Son to us and pray to him that we may manifest him to those who do not know him. Do we give witness to Christ’s values among people of other faiths in our neighbourhood and workplaces by our conduct, or give them bad example? Do we consider that searching for Christ or looking for him in prayer, sacraments, Scriptures and all situations or events is an essential aspect of Christian faith? If so, how committed are we to these faith-practices? Are we like Herod pretending to pay homage to Christ in the church or in traditional prayers, but are involved in killing His values?
6.  A prayer
Lord Jesus, you are the rising Star to dispel our darkness. We adore you as the King of our hearts and offer our lives to your guiding light. Grant that we may never tire of seeking you in all situations and events. May our search result is finding you or recognising your presence everywhere. We repent for the times we gave bad example to those who do not know you by negating your gospel-values.  Like the wise men, give us the grace and enlightenment to take a new direction in our lives so that we become better witnesses of your love. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Motherhood of Mary (New Year 2017)

Mary, Mother of God [Lk 2:16-21]
(New Year: 01 January 2017)
The Message of the Shepherds and Mary’s Faith-Response
Readings: (1) Num 6:22-27 (2) Gal 4:4-7
1. Theme in brief
Treasuring the Word and pondering it
2.  Focus Statement
Mother Church is constantly called to imitate these features of Mary’s Motherhood: receiving the Word of God in faith, treasuring it in her heart and pondering over its significance.
3.  Explanation of the text
In today’s gospel passage we notice three categories of people – the shepherds, the public and Mother Mary – responding to the mystery of incarnation (God becoming a human person) in three different ways. The faith-response of the shepherds is made clear by their efforts to make known to others what had been told to them about new-born Saviour (2:17) and to glorify and praise God for all they had heard and seen (2:20). Thus, they become a model for Christian disciples’ missionary call – to witness to what they have heard and seen. After them, we are told about some people (the public) who only amazed at what the shepherds told them (2:18), but did not respond to that message in faith. They are like the ones who hear the Word but do not respond with faith because of lack of roots (cf. Lk 8:13). Then we are told about the faith-response of Mary who treasured the Word of God (announced by the shepherds) and pondered its significance in her heart (2:19).  She is like those who after hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and produce a hundredfold fruit (Lk 8:8, 15).
When the shepherds heard from the angel the good news of the birth of a Saviour for all people (2:10), with the melodies of the “Gloria” sung by the multitude of the heavenly host still ringing in their ears (2:13-14), they hurried with great excitement to Bethlehem to “see this ‘thing’ that has taken place” (2:15). [This word ‘thing’ can also mean an event or word when it is translated from the original language, namely Greek.] So we can understand this passage to mean that the shepherds went to Bethlehem to “see” (of course, with the eyes of faith) the greatest event that had taken place – the event of God taking birth in a human form and stooping down to be born in a manger. What they discovered was like an anti-climax: they found a mother (Mary), a father (Joseph) and a child (Jesus) lying in the manger (2:16). Or, in other words, a helpless child born to a poor, deprived and homeless family (2:12). They noticed God’s boundless love revealed through the image of an ordinary family, which is guided by the faith-reflections of a mother.
The Mother (Mary) whom the shepherds saw is described as the one who treasured all their words and pondered them in her heart (2:19). This statement of Luke highlights an important aspect of Mary’s motherhood, that is, listening to God’s Word reflectively, keeping it as a precious treasure in her heart and pondering (literally chewing over) its meaning and relevance or significance for her life. She makes efforts to discover the meaning of the greatest event of her life – God’s incarnation – in the light of faith. Later, Luke will repeat this trait of Mother Mary in 2:51, where he will note that she treasured the words of Jesus regarding his mission not to be in her house always but to be in his Father’s house (2:49). As she (as well as Joseph) did not understand those words immediately (2:50), she deeply reflected over their meaning. Thus, she becomes both a model believer and a model for reflection and introspection into a believer’s (disciple’s) life-journey on the basis of God’s Word.
In Luke’s gospel, the shepherds’ hurrying to Bethlehem “in haste” (2:16) is very much related to Mary’s setting out in haste to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth (1:39). Whereas the shepherds’ haste implies their eagerness to receive and share or proclaim the good news of salvation, Mary’s haste refers to her eagerness to serve her relative Elizabeth during her pregnancy. We can notice here how Mary’s faith and reflections on God’s Word overflow into action, that is, in loving service to the needy.
4.  Application to life 
By keeping the feast of the Motherhood of Mary on New Year Day, the Church wants us to begin the New Year with her blessing and under her maternal protection. As she is our Heavenly Mother, we entrust all the days of this year to her motherly care and tender love. We hope that she will not forget her children all year long as we often pray to her, “Remember O Most Gracious Virgin Mary…..”
First of all, as we are beginning a New Year on the feast day of Mary’s Motherhood, it is right to relate this day’s significance with the feast we are celebrating. It is said that the name of the first month of the year, "January" comes from the pagan god of Rome called Janus.  He was a double-faced god depicted in opposite directions, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. This idea fits very well with the features of Mary’s Motherhood. Mary is a good model for reflection and introspection on our past and our future – how we lived our life the past year and how we are going to live it in the New Year. In other words, New Year is a new stage in our life to examine the past and look forward to the future. In spite of some human failures of the past and the unknown facts of the future, we must look forward to another year with a lot of expectations, enthusiasm and hope.
This idea of self-examination of the past and looking forward to a purpose-driven future, matches well with what Luke hints in today's gospel about an important trait of Mary's Motherhood: hearing the Word of God and pondering its meaning and relevance or significance for her life. She discovered God’s will and plans for her by treasuring God’s Word in her heart and pondering over its meaning, significance and relevance. She came to know about divine revelation through the message (words) of the shepherds, and God’s will in the event of finding Jesus in the Temple. She did not know or understand the full meaning of neither the incarnation or the mission of her Son. She must have understood the full implications of this Christ-event only after the resurrection and Pentecost. From day one, she must have asked herself these questions again and again: who her Child really was; why he chose to be born in a stable under such a miserable condition; why he choose to be born of an ordinary girl like her; and why he chose the poor shepherds to give the good news of his birth and visit her family. Our entire Christian life is centred on who Jesus is for us and what it means to follow him in our times. Like her, we are to discover God’s plans for us in this New Year in the light of the Word of God.
Like Mary, we are called to reflect deeply on all the events of our life in order to discern what God says at every stage of our life. She is like those believers who after hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance (Lk 8:15), as Jesus explains in the Parable of the Sower. Such believers are like the good soil that produces a hundredfold fruit (Lk 8:8). God speaks to us today also through divine revelation (Word of God and its interpretation) as well as through the personal experiences gained through life’s events. But we need to be attuned to what God says as Mary was. Suppose we are attuned to only what the mass media or misguiding companions say, how can we know what God wants to tell us?
Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. As Mary pondered the words of the shepherds (= God’s Word) and the events that took place in her life, we too are invited today to reflect over the events of the past year and compare them with the purpose, vision and mission of our life. Each one of us must have a personal vision or personal dream for ourselves. A vision or dream is a mental image or picture of the ideal we wish to realize in our life time. Of course, as believers, our dream must be formulated in line with God’s plan or purpose for our lives. Some people dream only for their prosperity and selfish needs, forgetting totally about the needs of the world, country and humanity. That is a small dream and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (former President of India) calls it a ‘crime’. Yes, it is a crime to be concerned about oneself alone and not at all about problems of the world or human society.
New Year is the best opportunity to see whether we have done our dream to our satisfaction in the past year. If not, we need to activate our inner energy to translate our vision into better action in the New Year. As we read newspapers and watch TV, we come to know about some burning problems of the world such as terrorism, ethnic fights or riots, corruption, hunger or poverty, communal (religion-based) riots, religious fundamentalism, economic recession, global warming and climate change, etc. Today is the most fitting time to be sorry for the times we contributed in any way to increase these problems. At the same time it is an occasion to examine whether we contributed to mitigate/ address these problems at least by a small gesture of concern in the past year and dream a little bigger dream for this year. Following Mary’s example, we need to introspect and see whether we are living our lives by chance or by personal choice. What were the wrong choices we made in the last year; and how are we going to make better choices in this year? On the New Year day, our Heavenly Mother invites us to make a review of life and recall to our mind the steps we need to take in order to live a meaningful and purpose-driven life. She is our best guide in all soul-searching questions.
The feast of Motherhood of Mary is closely related to the role of the Church (= all Christian believers) as a mother. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus asserts: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). Here Mary is presented as the prototype (model) of all those who become mothers and brothers or sisters of Jesus by hearing the Word of God and doing it (Lk 8:19-21). Doing it means living by it. To live by it, we need to receive it in faith and ponder its implications for our situation. The whole Church needs to become what she really is, that is, a ‘mother’ of God (or Christ) because God is needing to be ‘born’ again and again in the hearts of people; his self-giving love, compassion for the marginalized, forgiveness of sinners or offenders and concern for the needy must take birth through believers like us. God’s divine life needs to be transmitted to those who are drooping in spirit or are sitting in ‘darkness and in the shadow of death’ (Lk 1:79). If we had not sufficiently become the nursing and nurturing hands of a mother in the past year, the Church presents to us the model of Mother Mary to become more ‘motherly’ in the New Year.
Further, in Luke’s gospel, Mary is also presented as a model for all those who become blessed because of their hearing and obeying the Word of God. We read in his gospel, when a woman from the crowd called the mother of Jesus “blessed” for nursing a Son who was doing wonderful things for the sick and the needy, he said: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk (11:27-28). According to this text, Mary’s blessedness does not come from being born in a particular ethnic community or family but from her unconditional obedience to the Word of God and humble submission to its demands. Hence the title “Blessed Virgin Mother” suits her very well. We also become ‘blessed’ not because we were baptised into the Catholic community but by our obedience to God’s will and commitment to live the gospel-values. As we thank Mother Mary for her unconditional “YES” to God’s plan for our salvation, we also give thanks to God for the times we cooperated with his plans for us in the past year. Like her, we too march towards the unknown future in this New Year with an attitude of surrender to all that will come as we say “YES” to God.
Further, our contemplation and spiritual reflections should overflow in joyful service like Mary’s going out “with haste” to minister to her needy relative Elizabeth (1:39). Let us begin this year with a resolve to be more sensitive to the needs of the needy and the suffering humanity like Mary, and be more eager to go out to joyfully serve such people. Many of us who are in leadership roles speak beautiful words of serving the needy and the marginalized in our parishes, neighbourhood and in human society, but very few truly go out in haste to serve the needy. Like Mary, blessed are those who really become ‘mothers’ by showing sensitivity to the needs of others and go out in haste to serve them by sacrificing their time and energies. In this year, can we think of a specific act of charity we would like to do to such people?
5.  Response to God's Word
As a Christian believer and disciple, could I have done better in the past year? How did I spend my time? What good did I do to make the world a better place and what did I fail to do? Can I pick up one or two wider issues/ problems/ concerns/ needs of people of my area or of my country and create a mental picture (dream) about what I like to say or do about it in my own little way, at least by a small gesture? For whom? How? In the coming year what can I do to discover God’s plan for my family and its future with Mary’s guidance?
6.  A prayer
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us that we may be faithful to our Christian vocation and mission in this year. We entrust this New Year, our future, our family’s future, the future of the Church, the future of humanity, the future of the entire universe to your Motherly care. Amen.