Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - "New Beginnings"
Bk of Numbers - Traditional Jewish blessing

Galatians - Paul annoyed because Galatians have been persuaded that in order to be a Christian one needs to be circumcised and to follow the Law of Moses. His annoyance is evident from the lack of the usual friendly greeting with which he always commenced his letters. Paul is adamant that with Christ, new thinking has been introduced - a new freedom is given.

Gospel - Luke is at pains to emphasise the Jewish origins of Christ, even though new beginnings in religious thinking result from His presence.

Point 1: The experience of life beginning again is fairly familiar to most people - recovery from a serious illness; a near miss accident; the turn around following natural disaster of fire, flood or drought; the restoration of a friendship that had been lost through anger or misunderstanding. All of these experiences can call upon the limits of our resilience and open to us the excitement of beginning again.
A New Year has always been a time of excitement and wonder for people; so much so that, of necessity, we feel the need to celebrate even though our celebrations may leave us with a heavy hang-over!

Point 2: It is not coincidence, but deliberate design, that the Church in recent years has turned January 1 into the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Actually, the feast is a very ancient one that had been celebrated on 11th October. It recognises the new beginnings that took place in religious thinking when Mary uttered her famous acceptance of the Divine Plan of salvation - "Here am I the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word". With these words Mary became the patron saint of "new beginnings". The birth of any child represents new beginnings, but the Bethlehem experience disclosed in a deeper and more powerful way the revitalizing energies that God's presence engenders in peoples' lives .

Point 3: To-day's gospel is devoted largely to the story of the shepherds' discovery of a newly born child and his mother. In it we can see three possible reactions to the birth of Jesus. Firstly there are the people to whom the shepherd told their story. They listened, they wondered; but they did nothing. They made no attempt to find the child or to know more of him. Then there are the shepherds; certainly they responded to the command of the angels to go and find the child. They then told others, went back to their fields and were not heard of again. At no point in subsequent years do they appear by Christ's side.
However, between those who merely heard and wondered and the shepherds who disappeared from the scene, a third reaction is recorded - that of Mary. We are told that "she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart". Throughout the life and death of Jesus she is present, not fully understanding what was happening or why! She had simply said "yes" and from then on laid herself open to God's plan.

Conclusion: It frequently happens that God continues to ask the same degree of acceptance from believers. We are not always able to understand the strangeness of God's ways; but, like Mary, we dwell upon such mysteries with ultimate trust in God, waiting to be led where God wills. We, too, learn to make new beginnings.
Mary is not the only one who "bears the Son of God". As Christian believers, we are also Christ-bearers who need to learn to wait patiently in the midst of misunderstanding so that we also may bring Christ into our world. To do this we need to learn the art of new beginnings after failures in our relationship with God. And, as we learn this art, hopefully our success may encourage others who wish to make new beginnings in their relationship with God.

Scriptural reference:"For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Christ's sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor 4: 11)