The Solemnity of Mary,
                                                         Holy Mother of God
                                                                                     January 1, 2024

                                                                                                                     Fr. Josť Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
                                                                                                                                                                       Pastor of the Church of St. Peter
                                                                                                                                                                              North St. Paul, Minnesota

Sunday Reading Meditations

Today we begin the new year in the best possible way, with Our Lady, as we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God" When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman" (Col 4:4).  Mary shows us how to face the future with hope.  She teaches us to trust in God under all circumstances because he has a plan of good for everyone.  As the prophet Jeremiah says, "for I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope" (Jer 29:11).

Today's Gospel tells us that Mary treasured what the shepherds said to her in her heart: "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk 1:19).  She pondered the events reported by the herdsmen.  Mary sought to discover God's plan behind the circumstances. Even Mary had to penetrate the obscurity that conceals reality.  We need to pass from the visible to what lies beyond.  We need to seek the Father's face and his good plans for us in everything.  We need to pray the words of today's responsorial psalm: "May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us" (Ps 67:2).

How should we begin the new year?  We should begin the new year with faith.  To honor the divine maternity of Mary is an act of faith in Jesus' divinity.  Mary is the mother of God because she gave birth to Jesus, who is both human and divine.  As we proclaim our faith in Christ's divinity, we recognize the "Word who became flesh."  "In Mary's Immaculate Heart, we encounter God's light and peace.  Saint Augustine said that Our Lady "conceived him (Christ) in her heart before she conceived in her womb."  Mary brought God into the world through faith and obedience.

Today's second reading reminds us that we are God's beloved children.  Saint Paul says: "As proof hat you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba. Father!" (Col 4:6).  We are not orphans!  We have the Father, who knows and loves us.

We trust in God, despite unpleasant and difficult circumstances.  Our faith tells us that sin is the mysterious origin of suffering.  The negative does not come from God but rather from the Enemy and from ourselves.  Nevertheless, God leads all things to completion, despite the opposition of his creatures.  In his kindness, the Father begins all good things and brings them to fulfillment.  He is the origin and the end of all things.  We came from the Father and we return to him in Christ.  We are not going toward uncertainty but toward the Father, toward the happiness of eternal life. 

On the first day of the year, we acknowledge Mary's powerful intercession in a special way.  Through Mary, we obtain all the graces we need to walk the path of life. In today's first reading, Moses blesses the Israelites as follows: "The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!  The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!" (Num 6:25-26).  God the Father's luminous and kind presence fills our hearts with peace.

With Mary, our future is full of hope.  As we begin the new year, we pray with the words of today's psalm: "May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us" (Ps 67:1), God's face shines upon us through the heart of Mary.  Let us consecrate the year 2024 to Mary's Immaculate Heart: We entrust all the days of this year to your maternal tutelage.  We pray, O Holy Mother of God, for your Immaculate Heart to bring God's light and peace into our lives.  Shelter us under the mantle of your protection and safeguard us throughout the year.  May the Lord led us to the happiness of eternal life.  Amen.