Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. January 1, 2017 [Luke 2:16-21]
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Luk 2:19).”
Today, the world is celebrating its new beginning. Many of us are going to the parties, watching fireworks, and dancing and singing. Surely, nothing is wrong with those. Yet, today, the Church decides to go against the tide and celebrates something else, or someone else: Mary the Mother of God. To make it worse, today is a holiday of obligation, meaning we need to go to the mass whether we like or not. I remember attending the Eucharistic mass on January 1 in my own parish, and the priest never dropped a single greetings of a Happy New Year to the congregation. What a kill-joy!
We may ask, “Why do we still need to celebrate this solemnity at the beginning of the year?” Firstly, it is just fitting to remember Mary as the mother of Jesus within the context of Christmas. Thus, exactly a week after the birth of Christ, we honor the woman who has offered her womb, her body and her whole life to God. Secondly, we are reminded that the true beginning is not only something marked in our calendar, or with outward celebrations. The real beginning takes place inside minds and hearts. Like in the process of pregnancy and birthing, initially, the change is not obvious. It happens inside the silent womb, and it takes some time before the embryo grows bigger and makes its presence felt. The process is difficult, hard to understand, and oftentimes painful. Yet, within that womb is a life that carries with it a future, unpredicted, yet exciting and hopeful.
When the Angel Gabriel announced the News to Mary, she was troubled and confused. But, she was certain that her life was in great danger. Unlike some modern societies wherein unmarried women who get pregnant are just normal, the ancient Jewish community was ready to punish such women. Mary was with a child practically outside of marriage, and she had to bear with all the consequences, There could be a great shame to her family, her future husband, Joseph, and herself. The baby might be called a bastard son for his entire life. And finally, she with her baby could be stoned to death. Yet, her faith in God was greater than her fear. She courageously carried in her womb, the little baby that would be the future of the world.
Ten years ago, in 2006, the Dominican mission in Indonesia began in utter simplicity. We were only two Indonesian priests, Frs. Adrian and Robini, and a Filipino counterpart, Fr. Terry and a lay missionary, Ms. Jemely. We had practically nothing. No institution, no house, no money. We even stayed at a little and simple quarter inside a Diocesan seminary in Borneo. We had to work hard just to support our daily lives and we relied on the generosity of many people. Nobody among us was sure what future will bring, but we had faith in God. Now, after 10 years, we have grown significantly. We have two stable houses in Pontianak and Surabaya. Now we are ministering to the multitude of people through various apostolates. Of course, young and talented people come and join our way of life.
Mary teaches us to have faith in God because for Him, nothing is impossible. The future may be uncertain, frightening and dark, but ‘… the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).’ This is the spirit of the true New Year, the soul of real change, the faith that animates us to move forward.
Bro. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP