December 31, 2020 – New Year’s Eve Mass – Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010121.cfm)
As we say our goodbye to 2020 and welcome a New Year of 2021, there is something I want you to do. I invite you to think, remember and recognize those many things that you have lost during this year of 2020 especially as Covid-19 Pandemic began to create chaos and significant changes into our lives. Those things that you have lost may include opportunities at school, at work or your business, relationships, family, or losing a loved one or anything that were significant to you.
I am giving you now 60 seconds to remember, recognize and count each of them. Are you ready? Timer starts now.
Losing something especially when that was significant or losing someone whom you love, creates deep pain in our heart. We become sad and even depressed. Others were even stunned and petrified when they realized that they have lost something special and important in their life.
I know several friends who until now are carrying that deep sorrow and grief over the loss of a loved one during this pandemic. It was too much to bear and the memory of it would always bring sadness.
Many medical front-liners also suffer emotional stress and physical fatigue in responding to the crisis. Many of them got infected and were deprived to be with their families.
Indeed, it is very important to recognize what we have lost. Many writers and social media influencers called us to always be positive and exercise “optimism” in midst of this depressive and life-altering challenges of the pandemic. Yet, optimism without a realistic recognition of what happened in our surrounding can be a blind spot. To be optimistic but denying the existence of our difficulties has no ground at all.
Our difficulties, our issues and problems both personal and of our community must always be considered in our search to go forward and to be hopeful. Thus, with this exercise to remember and recognize what we have lost brings us into the awareness of concrete and realistic situations that need mature and responsible response.
From here, this calls us now to step forward. This is the invitation that I would like you now to dwell deeper – “the invitation to find great blessings in simple and small things.”
I would like to invite you again for another 60 seconds. This time, I would like you think and recognize those blessings that you have received this year especially as we are all going through this world wide crisis. Remember, blessings are not just limited with material things. They also include people or relationships, opportunities being offered in your work or business, or even events. So, begin now recognizing your blessings. And your 60 seconds starts now.
A mother shared to me how she found wonders in the middle of this difficult and depressive time of the pandemic. Because of the home quarantine, she found changes in the attitude of her children and even grandchildren and her husband. At the beginning, each one seemed to enjoy their gadgets. They were in one home but almost not talking to each other. Yet, when one family member got sick, and was suspected of Covid-19, everybody slowly changed their attitude. Her children, grandchildren and husband began to join her in her daily rosary. Slowly, each one would sit around the altar to pray. But more than this, the quality of the presence of each one, was being shared to all the members of the family.
What she found and became more grateful was the gift of presence of her family members. Each one also realized the importance of that gift and became more conscious of each one’s needs. This, certainly, is a great blessing. Easily taken for granted but when we become more conscious of it, presence becomes a powerful gift we can share to a loved one who is suffering and afraid.
As we are about to close this year and welcome the New Year, we are indeed invited to find great blessings in small and simple things in life. They may be small but they can be powerful and wonderful when we become conscious of them.
This is what we have heard in tonight’s readings. Our Scriptures proclaimed to us God’s blessings. And so, I would like to invite you again that we now turn our attention to what was proclaimed to us in the Sacred Scriptures.
The First reading from the Book of Numbers gives us the assurance of God’s blessing. God blesses and loves to bless us. Moses was told by the Lord to convey to Aaron and his sons that the Lord blesses and protects them. God’s blessing is to make God’s face shine upon the people God loves.
In the same way, our Psalm also proclaims this hope. It says, “May God have pity on us and bless us, may he let his face shine upon us.” Accordingly, St. Paul told us in his letter to the Galatians that, “when the fullness of time has come, God sent his soe, born of a woman.” This fullness is the fulfillment of God’s promise which we have been reflecting during the Season of Advent.
This fullness of time was also received by a woman who was full of grace. This is why we celebrate the first day of the year in honor of Mary, the Mother of God because through her fullness, Mary brought to us God’s greatest blessing. Mary reminds us on this first day of the year that no matter how difficult life is, no matter what kind of challenges we are facing right at this very moment, we are blessed.
"I AM BLESSED"
This Gospel of Luke also described to us this wonder in finding great blessing in small and simple things. The shepherds who were considered at that time as stateless, nameless and insignificant people in their society must have been looking and searching for something that will affirm their worth. People who were abandoned and not recognized by the community carry a deep pain in their heart and deep longing to be understood and to be loved. These shepherds must have been looking for this, deep in their hearts.
God is not blind to this. God shows his mercy. God comes to bless us. Indeed, those deprived shepherds, as St. Luke told us, went in haste to Bethlehem in search of a child after an Angel told them of the great news. In their search, what they found was an infant lying in a manger with Mary and Joseph. Yes, they found this family and an infant in unadorned manger which was intended only for animals’ food.
Can we not see it? God’s greatest blessing to us rests in a poor, simple and unadorned manger. As God promised to let his face shine on us, God fulfills it in a simple and humble way. This is what Mary, the Mother of God reminds us today. Mary brought to us the Lord Jesus not in a majestic or spectacular or extravagant way where people will be crowding to see and be amazed of what happened. No! There was no big crowd. There were no dignitaries! There was no presence of important people in the society. Only the stateless, insignificant, nameless, and unimportant shepherds and perhaps some animals to see and behold the face of God.
Why is that? We can only wonder. Those important and big people could have been too busy and too occupied with their ego. When we turn like this, we will be more concerned in big and spectacular things for ourselves. We will be overwhelmed by our desire to have more for ourselves that our heart became indifferent to the simple invitation of God.
What does it tell us now? As this New Year of 2021 is about to unfold, never ever take for granted the small, the least, the simple and the ordinary in our life. History tells us that God comes and shines his face upon us through the simple and small things, through ordinary events, through our familiar friends, through the least of our brothers and sisters.
Look and find God and His great blessings in the small and the simple. Never forget that because like the shepherds, when we begin to recognize God and his blessings to us in the small and simple things, it will move us to joy and to gratitude. Look at what happened to the shepherds. When at last they have received God’s blessing brought by Mary, they began glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
The shepherds became the first preachers of joy. Everyone they met on the road, they shared the joy that they have felt. That joy in them became more infectious that any disease or virus. With that blessing they received, they began to look at their life and look at the world at a very different perspective from before. They now look at life and the world through the lens of blessing because God is here with us.
Life becomes more wonderful despite its challenges. The world though it was night, but there was a glimmer of hope that the sun will surely shine. All these have become possible because like Mary and Joseph, the shepherds also received the carried the Lord in their hearts. Now, as we welcome 2021 in few more ours, let us also receive and always allow the Lord to be with us.
For us to remember God’s invitations tonight, let me remind you again of your “take aways.”
- Recognize what you have lost as well as your failures. Be reconciled and let go.
- Recognize your blessings even in the small and simple things in life. And be grateful.
- Preach joy and live in joy.
Hinaut pa. Have a Merry Christmas and a Grace-filled New Year everyone.