Happy New Year! This is not a new year of the Church. The Church’s New Year began since the last Sunday of last November. The New Year we are celebrating today is the secular New Year. It is the New Year of the world. It is ok for the Church to celebrate the New Year of the world because, even though we are not of the world, scripture acknowledges the fact that we are in the world. Since we are in the world, it is our responsibility to sanctify the world by the way we live our lives.

As Christians, our power to sanctify the world comes from Jesus Christ, who came not to condemn, but to save the world. During his public ministry, Jesus went about teaching, doing good works, and calling people to follow him as his disciples. As Christians, we are followers of Christ, and so we are his disciples.

On the first day of the secular year, the first of January every year, we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God. Today’s second reading, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians reminds us that “God sent his Son, born of a woman.” Who is this Son? He is Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is God himself. The woman is the Blessed Virgin Mary. If her son is God, then, it is not out of place to call her the Mother of God.

Why the choice of this date for the celebration of Mary the Mother of God? We can look at it from many angles. But I would like to look at it this way. As we said earlier, the Scripture that says we are not of this world, also acknowledges the fact that we are in this world. Our responsibility as Christians/disciples of Christ is to sanctify this world by the way we follow Christ, and by the way we relate to this world.

As we begin the secular year, the Church presents the Blessed Virgin Mary to us as the first and best disciple of her son, Jesus Christ. The Church wants her to mentor us as we begin a new secular year. Mary followed her son by submitting to the will of God from the beginning of her earthly life until the end.

Mary had the singular honor of being the Mother of God, but that did not prevent her from facing the challenges of this life. In spite of the difficulties she faced in this life, she pondered everything in her heart, and she submitted herself to the will of God. Her conception of Jesus Christ raised suspicions regarding her virginity. Even to this day, some Christians still raise questions regarding the authenticity of the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After she gave birth to Jesus, she, along with Joseph and Jesus had to escape Herod’s sword by becoming refugees in Egypt, Africa. In her presence, religious leaders attacked her son; she watched her son carry a cross that was not for him; in her presence, her son died a death that was not meant for him. His lifeless body was laid on her lap, yet she pondered everything in her heart, and she continued to align her ways with God’s will.

As we begin this new secular year, the Church invites us to live our lives, to respond to the challenges of this world like the Blessed Virgin Mary, by pondering everything in our hearts, and doing God’s will. Being the Mother of God did not insulate her from the challenges of this life. Similarly, being a Christian will not insulate any of us from the challenges of this life. As we begin this new secular year, you may be considering a resolution for the New Year. Maybe this is a time to consider the resolution to ponder things in our hearts like Mary before we act. Maybe, before reacting to that rumor, before reacting to that false allegation against you, stop and ponder, and ask God, “What is your will for me in this case.” Before reacting to what you term failure in your relationships, education, business, job, health, etc., stop and ponder, and ask God, “What do you want from me at this time?” Many times, we react to things and situations, and we end up regretting because we did not seek the will of God. The Blessed Virgin Mary aligned her will with God’s will. She trusted entirely in the grace of God. Today, she is crowned in heaven. As we begin this new secular year, let us unite our prayers with the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary by saying, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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