Message: Prayer is the proof of sonship. By prayer you make a new beginning.
Happy New Year! I thank you for coming to this New Year's Mass. Today is the eighth day of Christmas. You can count them on your fingers, starting with December 25. The Jewish people circumcise a male child on the eighth day - as we hear in the Gospel. Jesus, Mary and Joseph participated in the laws and practices of Israel - the Jewish nation.
St. Paul tells us - in our second reading - that Jesus was "born under the law" to ransom us "so that we might receive adoption as sons."
This brings us to the homily theme which I announced at Christmas - a new beginning. To those who accept Jesus he gives power to become a son of God, a beloved daughter.
St. Paul gives the "proof" of sonship. A person proves he is a son by crying out "Abba, Father." You know you are a son of God if you can say to him, "Father." In other words you know you are a son (or daughter) if you pray. That is the proof of sonship.
It's no accident that Pope Francis invites us to make January First a day of prayer - for peace in our world, in one's family and in your own heart.
Many ask, how do I pray? Well, today we have the great exemplar of prayer - Mary, Mother of Jesus and therefore Mother of God. The Gospel says "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." On a basic level prayer is simply thinking - thinking about God and what he has done. Mary did that every moment.
Thinking about God has many aspects. Before becoming a priest, a young man spends four years studying theology. Theology is the study of God. Like biology, the study of life and psychology, the study of the mind, theology is the study of God. It involves learning about his self revelation in the Bible, the writings of the early Christians and the great theologians. Theology studies why we say God is both one and three - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and what God has done for us, why we need a Savior. In theology a person studies God and that leads to prayer - thinking about God.
When a person prays - thinks about God - it helps to have a simple method. Here's the one I use - the TARP method: First, thank God. God has given us an amazing world filled with people created in his image. Thank God for making you part of such beauty. Then ask. Ask for needs of family and friends, for your own needs - and our world. As Pope Francis reminds us, we need mercy. Our world suffers not so much from scarcity of water or food, but mercy. Innocent children are dying because people lack mercy.
After you ask, repent. You and I have areas where we lack mercy. Repent. And finally, praise: I praise you, Jesus. I praise you, God - Father. When we praise God, the devil flees. Continue praising God as you go about your day.
So thank, ask, repent, praise. The TARP method. I will say more about prayer in the coming weeks. Prayer is the proof of sonship. By prayer you make a new beginning. A new year, a new beginning.
God sent his Son, born of a woman, to ransom us. As proof that you are sons, God has sent the Spirit into our hearts crying out, Abba Father! To those who accept Jesus he gives power to become children of God. Amen.
From Archives (New Years - Mary Mother of God):
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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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