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Sunday Readings for Jan. 01, 2010 (MotherofGodA)
By Fr. Phil Bloom
Bottom line: For the sake of our children and grandchildren, God wants us - his Church - to thrive.
Thank you for coming to our New Year's Day Mass. This Mass has several themes: It is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace. Liturgically, January 1 is the Octave of Christmas - the "eighth day" after his birth when he shed a first drop of blood in the rite of circumsion. As part of that rite, he received his Holy Name - Jesus.
All of these themes are important - and any one of them could be developed into a full homily, but I would like focus on something that connects deeply with the beginning of a new year - that is, the handing on of our Sacred Tradition. We see that theme in our readings.
The first reading contains Aaron's priestly blessing:
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!
For over three thousand years, priests of the old and new covenants have given that blessing. A blessing from priest to parishioner or from parent to child has power because it immerses us in a Sacred Tradition that originates from God.
In the Gospel we see another aspect of Sacred Tradition - Jesus receiving the rite of circumcision. It goes back to Abraham and continues till today. For us as Christians baptism is similar to circumcision. It incorporates us into the people of God.
Handing on our tradition is at the heart of the book I gave you at Christmas. Many of you have begun to read "Rediscover Catholicism" and some of you have already finished it and hand it on to someone else. You might remember that Matthew Kelly sums up his book in this sentence: "The Church (like so many other things in life) is not so much something we inherit from generations past or take over from our predecessors as it is something on loan to us from future generations."
It might surprise to think of the Church as "on loan to us from future generations." Yet, in a real sense, the Church is not something given to us so we can get something out of it and move on. No, the Church is not a relic of the past; she belongs to the future. As Matthew Kelly says "We determine the Church our children and grandchildren will inherit." God has appointed us to care for his vineyard. It is a serious responsibility.
As we begin the New Year, it is a good moment to examine our attitude to the Church. We can easily take the Church for for granted - maybe even with what Matthew Kelly calls a "shallow consolation." Yes, Jesus did promise that the "gates of hell would not prevail" against the Church. The Church, of course, will survive. It will even survive you and me! But, you know, we want to do more that survive. We want to thrive. We want the Church to thrive. That depends on us, on our response to God's grace.
As we begin a New Year, we are conscious of being part of a beautiful tradition, a Sacred Tradition. We want to hand this beauty and power to our children. To do that we have to live our faith authentically, to strive for holiness each day.
Matthew Kelly lays out seven steps, seven pillars for growing spiritually. If we start following them, we will move beyond mere survival. For sure, there will be days when all we can do is survive. But God has greater plans for us: For the sake of our children and grandchildren, God wants us - his Church - to thrive