My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Happy New Year to you all! I hope you have been enjoying this Christmas season with your families and loved ones. It is a beautiful time of the year, a time of peace and joy.
And as I said, today we celebrate the solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God and also the World Day of Peace. So let us especially pray for peace today — peace in the world, peace in the church, peace in our families — that the grace of God will be with us this year as we start the new year.
And as you know, we are still celebrating the Christmas liturgical season— the birth of Jesus Christ into our world, the birth of Jesus into our hearts. It goes, as you know, until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
So we are still in the Christmas Season for the church.
Christmas brings and marks a new beginning for the world and, in a sense, a new beginning for each one of us. And today we begin this New Year, we start by giving thanks to Mary our Blessed Mother because she’s the one who makes this new beginning possible.
Today we praise Mary, our Mother! Mary the Mother of God!
And the first thing that I wanted to reflect on today and share with you is something that is obvious for all of us — that we can never take our Mother Mary for granted! What Our Blessed Mother did — what she said “yes” to — changes the whole world.
Mary was a true mother to Our Lord. She gave birth to him and loved him. She nursed him and she held him in her arms. And this is the beautiful scene that we have in the Gospel story that we just heard today.
So as we celebrate Mary our Blessed Mother, we want to continue reflecting on what we have received from her: the beautiful gift of Christmas — Jesus — the Infant lying in the manger.
And St. Paul in the second reading of today’s Mass tells us: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
So that is what happened at Christmas. Two things. First, God sent his Son to “ransom” us. To set us free. So we don’t have to prisoners of the past — prisoners of our bad habits or the mistakes that we have made in our lives.
Jesus breaks us free from all that. We do not have to repeat our mistakes or live like we have always been living. This is the great freedom we have in Christ. We can live in a whole new way.
And that’s the second thing that happens at Christmas. St. Paul says that Jesus ransoms us so that we might receive adoption as God’s sons and daughters.
The true meaning of Christmas. We are children of God! We have a new birth, we can be new men and new women.
So two things: Jesus set us free and Jesus makes us children of God!
So that means that we do not have to be the people we have always been. We are free now to be the people of God and the people that God wants us to be! We are free now to live as children of God.
So we, as we know, are all brothers and sisters. We are equal in dignity — no matter what our language, or race, or where we come from. We are all children of Mary, just like Jesus, and he is our brother.
St. Paul says today: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son or a daughter!”
This is who you are! This is what Christmas is all about! And God — as we have been reflecting on — God knows our name, my name, and your name! And God has a beautiful plan for you and for me! For your life. A plan of love and joy.
So think about it — you are somebody very special to God, each one of you! There is nobody like you and there is nobody who can replace you! Extraordinary! Just think about it!
God is so good! God really makes us very special and he loves us, as I said so many times, each one of us personally, in a very beautiful way.
So, as we start this new year, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us — once again — to really understand who we are. We need to claim our dignity, our worth in the eyes of God. And this is, my brothers and sisters, my prayer for all of us in this new year.
I pray that we will get up every morning, in this new year, and think about ourselves everyday and say, “I am a child of God! I am one of his beloved sons and daughters!”
If we do it, my dear brothers and sisters, it will change our lives. I promise you! You will live totally differently. With new joy. With a new purpose. With a new desire to do things for God and for love!
It will make a huge difference in our lives if every morning we really understand and feel that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.
So, Mary is our Blessed Mother and Jesus is our brother, and he’s walking with us. He is by our side in everything. We are living in his family, the Church. We are one of God’s people, one of God’s family. And this is, as I insist, the great gift that we receive during this Christmas season.
The promise that we heard in the first reading of today’s Mass, it is true: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.
So my dear brothers and sisters, we need to live our lives in thanksgiving, with total gratitude for this great gift. We need to live like those shepherds in the Gospel passage of today’s Mass: “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.”
We need to glorify God by our lives! As we pray at the end of Mass: Go in peace, glorifying God by your life. And we all respond, Thanks be to God! That’s the way our life is supposed to be, it must be! Everyday — this year and always!
That’s what Jesus wants, that’s why he sets us free. That’s what it means to be a child of God.
So today, let us especially ask the intercession of Mary our Blessed Mother, and let us follow her example, doing God’s will in everything and in every moment — trying to be a blessing to others, trying to bring Jesus into the lives of other people. Then we really will have a happy new year, a blessed new year.
Let’s ask Mary our Blessed Mother to help us to live in this New Year, with new awareness of who we are in Jesus. With new excitement that we are truly sons and daughters of God! And let us ask her, Our Lady of Peace, for peace in the world, in the Church, in our families — peace for each one of us.
1. Readings: Num. 6:22–27; Ps. 67:2–3, 5–6, 8; Gal. 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21.