Bottom line: As we begin the New Year 2021, I ask you to do the best thing you can for your children and spiritual children: Make a new beginning together with Mary and Joseph, focused on Jesus. .
Today's Gospel begins with these words: "The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem". In Bethlehem Jesus - the Eternal Word of God - showed himself in a humble form - as a defenseless babe. The name "Bethlehem" points to an even greater humility. As we saw on Christmas day, Bethlehem in Hebrew means "house of bread". In the Mass Jesus becomes bread to nourish us.
Notice that the shepherds go "in haste". This is so different from the city folk in Jerusalem. As we will see this Sunday, when the Magi tell them about the star that was leading them to the "newborn King of the Jews", the city people kind of yawn. They didn't make the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The great difficulty during our pandemic is that people found more entertaining things to do than pray, read the Bible or a good Catholic book - or go to Mass (even virtually). That wasn't how the shepherds acted. They went in haste to Bethlehem.
At Bethlehem they "found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger." Someone told me about a bumper sticker that said "Wise men still find Jesus together with Mary and Joseph". Pope Francis has declared 2021 "the year of St. Joseph." We need him so much. Our culture has declared a war against fatherhood. At the same time, so many people are hurting because they lack a father - physical or spiritual. Our Knights of Columbus work to support fatherhood. Knight Dale Doornek whose funeral we have on Tuesday is a great example of spiritual fatherhood. He inspired so many young people.
A word about the manger. It has the same root as the Italian "mangiare". When I was studying in Rome, I lived for a time with an Italian family. The mom was always saying to me "mangia, Filippo". Eat! The manger was the eating place for animals. Another sign that Jesus comes as food to nourish us.
And we see that "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." It doesn't seem possible to us now, but contemplation will be the great joy in eternity. I remember once coming upon a young mom holding her newborn. She was so enraptured contemplating her child that she didn't notice me - which was good. The scene enthralled me. In heaven we will join Mary in contemplating her son Jesus in his glorious humanity.
Here below, time goes on: "When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb." Joseph accepts his fatherhood by naming Jesus. I had a tiny experience of naming. Twenty-three years ago I got a call from Peru. It was my friend, Cesar and his voice was excited. "Padre," he told me, "we just had a baby girl." Then he asked me for a name. I said, "Well, today is October 4, feast of St. Francis. Why not call her 'Francisca'?"
"No, padre," he said, "give another name." I said, "How about naming her Melania after my sister, Melanie?" Eight months later, Cesar died in car accident. For these years I've held a special affection for little Melania, not like a replacement dad, but maybe like a grandfather - and of course, spiritual father as I am to each of you. Melania is now in medical school studying to be a doctor. I hope to see her this month.
As we begin the New Year 2021, I ask you to do the best thing you can for your children and spiritual children: Make a new beginning together with Mary and Joseph, focused on Jesus. To help do this, I give you the blessing of Aaron and his sons: (please stand)
The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!Amen.
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (New Years - Mary Mother of God):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru