Homily for 1 January

So here we are in 2020, embedded in this time and place. It has been approximately 2020 years since the birth of Christ. Approximately since it is hard to come up with a definitive year and most historians think the date is out by around four to six years. Still it has been 2020 years since Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God and here we are. Counting seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years is one way to measure time, but our experience of time is much more complex. Sometimes time seems to drag (it may be doing so for you now), other moments seem to be zip past us.

This feast today invites us to look at time differently. The shepherds today are amazed, not at the angels whom they found terrifying, but at the young couple and the baby in a stable. They were amazed at God-with-us in the child. Jesus changes all time into God-with-us time. We are in God-with-us time, time which is not measured by the clock, which cannot really be measured because God’s presence is real, but not quantifiable, it is unfathomable. The shepherds invite us to share in their amazement; let us not take the moment for granted. Each moment of existence is a gift from God, a gift of God-with-us time. Pope Francis tells us that ‘without amazement, life becomes dull and routine, and so it is with faith’. ‘At the beginning of the year, ‘the Holy Father says, ‘Let us implore from Mary the grace to be amazed at the God of surprises.’

The feast invites us to look at time differently. Mary, the Mother of God, pondered the shepherd’s words. This speaks to us of her attitude in life, she kept things in her heart, in the space where she spoke about them with the living God. All the moments of amazement and joy, the moments of sorrow, the moments of perplexity, Mary held up to God. This prayerfulness did not turn sorrow into joy or resolve all perplexity, but it enabled her to hold it before God in faith and trust. She invites us to do the same, to bring everything to God expectantly, faithfully, trusting that he is present in every moment. We can see her discipleship in this. She did not pretend that everything was all right or that she understood it all; she did not dismiss pain. She brought to God. We can do the same. Nothing in our life is too big or small for God’s tender care. Mary showed Jesus the maternal face of God which looked on every moment of the child with tenderness. She shows us the same face and invites us to trust in the tenderness of God. Trust in his tenderness, bring everything to him, insistently at times just as a children do with their parents. Trust that God is present with us at his pace, the pace of tender, faithful love; his pace is not set by our impatience though he hears our anxious cries and reassures us if we listen; his pace is set by his loving concern for us.

The feast invites us to look at time differently with eyes of tenderness. We need to be efficient certainly, but not efficient at the price of tenderness. The Pope tells us that Mary’s ‘maternal gaze helps us see ourselves as beloved children in God’s faithful people, and to love one another regardless of our individual limitations and approaches. Our Lady keeps us rooted in the Church, where unity counts more than diversity; she encourages us to care for one another. Mary’s gaze reminds us that faith demands a tenderness that can save us from becoming lukewarm. Tenderness: the Church of tenderness.’ Tenderness helps us live time differently.

Throughout this year may Mary help us be amazed, bring everything to God, be tender. When we struggle may we turn to her who always says to us, ‘Take heart, dear children; here I am, your Mother!’ (Pope Francis, 1 January 2019)