By now, we wouldn’t be hearing any more Christmas carols. In fact, what we are hearing are the Chinese New Year songs with the unmistakable drums and cymbals.
Also Christmas décor has made way for CNY décor with those big-headed dolls and fire-crackers and dancing lions and chili-red banners.
Just eight days after Christmas, Christmas carols sound rather odd, Christmas décor look rather worn out, and it seems like Christmas is over and done with.
Even in church, to wish someone “Merry Christmas” sounds off-beat. What we hear is “Season’s greetings” although it is not clear what that season refers to. Because in Singapore, there is no winter season, so could it be the rainy season, or could it be the hot season? We have both... Well, so much for “season’s greetings”.
So for the world, Christmas is over and done with, making way for New Year celebrations with last night’s count-down and then it’s back to work and back to school.
And about those New Year resolutions, it’s usually one year in and one year out. Anyway, may all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.
But for the Church, we have continued the celebration of Christmas for eight days, or what is called the Christmas Octave, and today is the eighth day.
And on this day, we honour Mary with the title “Mother of God”. That title is certainly not new, in fact it goes all the way back to the year 431 when the Council of Ephesus formally proclaimed that title for Mary.
That title says much about who Mary is, but it also says much more about who Jesus is – that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Mary is honoured as Mother of God on the eighth day of the Christmas Octave and there is a reason for it.
The number 8 has a peculiar biblical meaning. God created the world in seven days. The eighth day represents a new creation or a re-creation.
We heard in the gospel that when the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave Him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before His conception. So the Saviour is given a name eight days after His birth.
Similarly with John the Baptist, on the eighth day, his mother Elizabeth gave him that name and confirmed by his father Zechariah.
Also eight days after the His Resurrection, Jesus appeared again to His disciples and especially to Thomas and he made that proclamation: My Lord and my God.
Mary is honoured as Mother of God on this eighth day of the Christmas Octave because as Elizabeth said this of her:
“Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary has this to say: Yes, from this day forward, all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.
And so year after year, as we begin each new year, we bless Mary and we honour her as Mother of God and also as our Mother.
In the gospel, we heard that Mary treasured all that had happened and pondered them in her heart.
Mary had to wait for what God has to reveal to her. Meanwhile, she treasured and she pondered. She prayed and waited. And now she finally understood. Indeed the Almighty has done great things for her.
And as the Mother of God, she now prays for us that we will also treasure all that has happened and ponder over it and that we will see the great things that the Almighty will do for us.
But we have to pray and wait. There is something about this word “wait”. We can make an acronym out of it, as in WAIT can mean “will arrive in time”.
We have prayed for many of our needs. And to make our prayer more tangible, we write out petition slips and put them in the petition box. And then like Mary, we have to keep praying, keep treasuring, keep pondering and keep waiting.
But after a while, we may forget what we have prayed for. And even when God has answered our prayer, we may not even realize it because we have no record of it.
So why not keep a record of it? We can use the camera on our mobile phones and take a photo of our petition slips or Mass offerings and when we pray we ponder over it.
And when we see how God answers our prayers, then we will give thanks and like Mary, we can say that the Almighty has done great things for us.
I was talking with Robert, one of our church workers, that he had done much, in the absence of Francis, the other worker, in putting up the Christmas décor and all that. Now that Francis is back, he can ask Francis to keep the décor after Epiphany.
His reply astounded me. He said that he has been working here for two and a half years already, and he had never been ill or had any accidents. God had indeed blessed him. Even for Francis, God has also blessed him because he went back to India to get married. So Robert said that he cannot be calculative with God and that he will do whatever work that needs to be done so that he will receive more blessings from God.
That is truly inspiring from a simple and hardworking man. And so I wrote a petition for him that in time to come God will find him a good girl and get married. I took a photo of the petition slip, I will pray and I will wait, and I know that God will do great things for him and that the prayer “will arrive in time”.
So on this feast of Mary the Mother of God and on this first day of the year, let us write our prayer intentions on the petition slips and we wait for God to do great things for us.
So instead of making New Year resolutions, let us make New Year petitions.
With Mary the Mother of God and our Mother praying for us, let us treasure our blessings, let us ponder on our needs, and let us wait for God to do great things for us.
|A Happy & Blessed New Year to All!|
From left: Fr Stephen Yim, Fr Paul Tong, Fr KS Michaelraj
Mary's Shrine, Church of the Sacred Heart, Singapore