Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart…
And not just Mary, but all mothers do this:
they store up memories of their children:
to keep them, hold on to them, to treasure them
lest they ever be lost.
And not just mothers, but all of us.
We all keep memories in our hearts,
continuing to reflect on them
as the months and years and decades go by.
I’m wondering this weekend, this New Year’s weekend,
what memories of 2016 you and I are keeping, storing,
holding in our hearts?
Was 2016 a good year or a hard year?
a happy year or a sad year?
a year of health or a year of illness?
a year of gain or a year of loss?
a year of pain or a year of peace?
Did the year just past seem to fly by
or did it creep at a snail’s pace?
Our physical hearts have only four chambers
but our souls’ hearts have many more than four.
What memories have filled the many chambers
of your hearts and mine over the past year?
Are we holding some hurtful memories alongside the happy ones?
Are we holding on to some resentments and grudges?
Have we refreshed our heart’s chambers
with compassion, forgiveness,
and that sweetest of all gifts:
Is there a chamber in my heart now empty
because I’ve lost someone I loved?
Have I locked up that empty place - or left it open,
inviting consoling and healing memories of my beloved
to restore and refresh me?
In the past year did my heart expand
to accommodate everything that came my way?
peace and pain alike?
Did my heart enlarge to welcome God’s grace in my joys
and his gentle touch upon my difficult days?
In 2016 did I turn to the Lord:
to lean on his strength in my weakness,
to depend on his counsel in my doubt,
to seek his wisdom in my confusion,
to reach for his companionship in my loneliness?
Mary would come, eventually, to keep in her heart
not only the joyful recollections of Jesus’ birth
(the star, the angels, the shepherds)
but also the painful memories of her Son’s suffering and death.
And so it is with us, too.
Our hearts are the storehouses of all that has shaped us
to be the persons we are becoming and have become,
the persons God is calling us to become.
And our hearts are the Lord’s dwelling place
where he comes to forgive our sins, to heal our wounds,
to calm our fears and to give us the peace
that comes only from his heart, from his hand.
This New Year’s day might be a good time for us
to take a little stroll through the chambers of our hearts
and, with the Lord’s help, empty out, sweep out,
what might be better left behind as a new year begins.
If we’ve been living in the chambers of sadness
it might be time, again, to enter the chambers of gladness --
and ask the Lord to make his presence known and felt again,
in the good memories we’ve held and kept in our hearts.
Although this is the time for making New Year's resolutions,
I know that some of us (because of our track record)
are resolving this weekend
only to make no more New Year's resolutions!
But if we're going to explore the chambers of our hearts
then some resolutions might be in order.
So, along with the parish staff and our Parish Council,
I invite you to read over a special insert in today's bulletin
that outlines all the many opportunities for service
at Holy Family Parish
and to consider resolving to make this a Year of Service for you,
in our faith community, by stepping forward to serve others.
I surely understand if your schedule, your responsibilities
or your health make it almost impossible to do so -
and if that's the case, I ask you to consider resolving
to pray for our parish each day in 2017
for its renewed vitality and growth in the new year.
If we all resolve to serve as the Lord has called us,
then I can't help but believe that 2017 will be a better year
for those we serve and for all of us.
One way to have good memories to keep in our hearts
is to create them
and serving others is a veritable fountain of good memories.
For sure, the year ahead
will find its own share of blessings and sorrows filling our hearts
but with the Lord’s help
we can come to accept and even treasure it all
and find peace in good times and hard times alike.
Every week we come to the Lord’s table
and here we keep the memories of Christ’s birth,
not just at Christmas time but every week,
and we keep the memory of his suffering, death and resurrection.
And every week the Lord who gave his life for us on the Cross
fills our hearts with his living presence
in the bread and cup of Communion in the Eucharist.
Pray that in 2017 we, like Mary,
Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, Mother of the Church,
will keep in our hearts the memories of our blessings
and treasure them in peace,
in a new year of grace.
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