We often begin the New Year by making resolutions and promises. We commit ourselves to make changes for our own self-betterment or that of others. We hope, we pray that these changes last.
At the same time, though, it’s important to recognize the good we do each day, and recommit to those also. There are many good habits we have developed through the course of our lives and we don’t want to lose sight of them.
In the Church year, we take time today to recognize the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. In a sense we start the calendar new year by going back to some basics: by recognizing Mary as the Mother of God. This title doesn’t reflect that Mary herself was divine, but rather that Jesus was.
Today’s gospel is the familiar story Jesus’ birth. Shepherds visit Mary and Joseph and Jesus in the stable, reminding us that even as he lay in a manger, Jesus was divine. Mary bore the divine in her womb and gave birth to Jesus. As such, she can be called the Mother of God. So, we begin the secular New Year with a reminder of a basic element of our faith. No resolutions are needed.
Today is also the World Day of Peace. By becoming human, Jesus divinized humanity. Because of that, we can never look at our neighbor the same way again, for each person is a locus of the divine. Each human being is worthy of respect and honor. Our faith teaches us that humanity is sacred. I am reminded of Pope Francis’ analysis of the Good Samaritan in his encyclical Fratteli Tutti and how everyone is our neighbor.
If we can commit to treating each other with respect, with dignity, and recognizing the divine in each person we encounter, we could live in a world of peace today, and always. Let’s make that be our resolution for this year.
Deacon Paul Kipfstuhl is the Director of the Social Action Office for Wayne, Ashland and Medina Counties for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Cleveland. He is also assigned as a deacon to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Medina, Ohio, and is a member of CCUSA’s Parish Social Ministry Leadership Team.
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