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Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 2023

Watch this homily! (Begins at 35:00)

   Each year on this feast we get to look at Christmas through two sets of eyes: the eyes of the shepherds who were the newborn Christ’s first visitors, and the eyes of Mary, his mother.

     The shepherds tend to get short shrift in the telling of the Christmas story. They pale by comparison with the Magi, those mysterious figures from out of the East, regally robed and laden with exotic gifts. The only gifts the shepherds bring are the simple gifts of awe and wonder, the homage of their hearts. But wouldn’t we do well to follow their lead and bring those same gifts to the newborn Savior? Gold, frankincense and myrrh might be precious, but wonder, awe, and adoration are priceless!

     And what did they see, those shepherds?  They saw Mary and Joseph - people very much like themselves: humble people, poor people, unimportant people with neither power nor influence.  But they saw more, of course: they saw the glow of divinity in the infant lying in the manger. Why else would they have felt compelled, after they had left the scene, to go about “making known what they had heard and seen”? Why else would they have returned to the task of tending their flocks “glorifying and praising God?”

     We would do well to look at the manger scene through the eyes of the shepherds, but in order to see what they saw, I think we first need to shed some of our self-importance and allow ourselves to become small and insignificant like they were, simple and poor in spirit. For only the eyes of the poor in spirit can see divinity hiding in such humble humanity.

     And, my friends, the second set of eyes through which we get to look at the great Christmas mystery are the eyes of Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother. It is Mary who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” And as the child grew in wisdom, age, and grace, and when he came to embrace his holy mission and to pay the price for doing so, her pondering must have turned into puzzlement and into pain.

     How wise the Church is to hold Mary before us today! She has so much to tell us about her Son – she who bore him in her womb “with love beyond all telling”; she who gave birth to the author of life amid the squalor of a stable; she who welcomed simple shepherds as his first visitors; she who looked upon the child knowing that he was not only her son but also God’s Son in a way no other child would ever be; she who would one day stand at the foot of his cross and receive his broken body into her arms, the same arms that once cradled his tiny, newborn body.  It is no wonder Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  There was enough here to ponder for a whole lifetime.

     It’s the same for you and me, my friends. However long we live, we will never run out of things to ponder in the Christmas story, the Christ story, never run out of things to learn – about God, about ourselves, about what is important and what is not, about life, about love.

     My friends in Christ, I think it’s safe to say that for good reason, we are happy to put this past year in our rearview mirror. The horrific war in Ukraine would be reason enough for that, but we don’t have to look far to find other good reasons for wanting to turn the corner into a new year. We need a new start, a new year; we need a revival of faith, a rebirth of hope, a rekindling of love. And where better to find those things than in the Eucharist and in this parish community of faith and love?

      And who better to have as our companion along the way than Mary, the Mother of God and our mother? She who accompanied her son from the cradle to the cross is our faithful companion as we embrace this new year with all the blessings and challenges it holds for us. In this new year, may we come to see a little more what May saw and may we come to believe more deeply as she believed. With Mary as our companion and guide, this year of 2023, for all the uncertainties and challenges it holds, will bring graces beyond measure and wonderful surprises. May it be so!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303