Homily – Mary, The Mother of God – 1st January 2023

In some ways, New Year’s Eve and Day is a hectic time of in the days after the great feast of Christmas. There is always a lot of frantic celebrating that is as often as not done more out of a sense of duty than any real feeling of expectant joy the prospect of a new year. But really, celebration is appropriate for New Year’s, as new beginnings are always kind of joyful things.

So, there is a certain freshness to the day, a readiness to believe that we are not, in fact, slaves of the past, that we can renew our lives, refresh our efforts to make of ourselves the kind of people we want to be, that we know we should be. Perhaps, it is just part of human nature, this readiness to believe that somehow the new year will be better.

I say it is part of human nature, and it is. But, more importantly, I think it is part of divine nature as well. This eagerness to grow, to perfect ourselves and our world, is a grace, it is a gift. The gift of hope.

New Year’s Day is really a celebration of hope. And what a profoundly Christian virtue hope is. It is Christ who gives substance to our hope. It is our faith in the fact that God has united himself to our human efforts, so that all of the barriers, all of the limits to what human beings can make of themselves, have been removed, that is what makes our hope something more than idle dreaming. We are absolutely justified, because of Christ, in hoping for the best from the new year, the best from ourselves in the new year. We are justified in hoping for peace in a war-torn world, for charity in a world that tolerates and in many ways even seems to encourage the victimisation of the weak and the poor.

Perhaps that is really the best understanding of the virtue of hope, a willingness to suspend our critical judgement of the world, a willingness to judge the goodness of the world and of people not so much on the basis of what seems to be true to our senses but rather on the basis of what we know to be true in our hearts and minds. Hope springs from a willingness to judge the world as God judges it. Certainly, that was the insight of the shepherds and magi; at Bethlehem, the insight even of Joseph and Mary themselves. Their surroundings, the evidence of the senses wouldn’t lead them to expect a great deal. And they did. The birth of Christ became for them a font of great hope, a hope that was fulfilled.

Every blessing for the New Year. Mary, Mother of God – pray for us.

Fr Andrew