Icon of Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, Mother of God
It’s the time of year when we roll out the old and bring in the new. It’s the time for making new resolutions, new promises to ourselves about living a better life.
But in the midst of all this excitement and hope of New Year’s comes a reminder: a baby lying in a manger – a baby whose birth, and life, so amazed not just a scraggly group of shepherds, but billions of people down through the ages who’ve been brought to their knees by the sheer, wondrous beauty of his birth.
That child, Jesus, causes us to call time out, and spend a few moments in the midst of our various celebrations to make perhaps the most important resolution of all: the resolution to become reborn and renewed in God’s love.
Luke’s Gospel asks us to do it this way: in the midst of all of our new year resolutions, remember Mary who treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
“All these words” certainly changed Mary. Consider what she had to ponder: an angel telling her she would to bear God’s own son; a census causing her to travel to Bethlehem on a donkey’s back; a manger filled with straw intended only for animals; a group of shepherds who are “amazed.” She had to be asking herself: “What does all this mean?” “How will I cope?”
In her heart, Mary’s ultimate answer to these questions was singular: Trust in God. Trust that the angel’s message was true: Rejoice, O highly favored one, the Lord is with you.
In the “Hail Mary” prayer, we use the words “full of grace” to describe Mary. But the Greek word used in Luke’s original writing actually means “favored to the greatest possible degree” – the strongest of all conceivable words to show how much God loved Mary and treasured her openness and her willingness to trust.
Abiding in such trust, Mary became the ultimate disciple, showing us what it meant to follow Jesus. She is the one who surrendered her ego, who quieted her fears, who made the decision to trust – even though she had little knowledge of what was going to happen. In her wildest dreams, this poor, humble woman could never have imagined how significant her “yes” would be in human history.
In the language of new year’s celebrations, Mary made a resolution – the resolution to open her heart to the amazing, fullness of grace; the resolution to voice a wholehearted “Yes” to God.
On this first day of the New Year, let us do the same.