CCC 464-469: Jesus Christ, true God and true Man
CCC 495, 2677: Mary is the Mother of God
CCC 1, 52, 270, 294, 422, 654, 1709, 2009: Our adoption as sons
CCC 527, 577-582: Jesus submits to the Law, and perfects it
CCC 580, 1972: The New Law frees from restrictions of the Old Law
CCC 683, 689, 1695, 2766, 2777-2778: In the Holy Spirit we can call God “Abba”
CCC 430-435, 2666-2668, 2812: The name of Jesus
“Madonna of the Harpies” (detail)
by Andrea Del Sarto, 1517
Reading 1: Numbers 6:22-27
Commentary on Nm 6:22-27
This passage contains the “Priestly Blessing,” or the “Blessing of Aaron.” It was to be used by priests to bless the people of God. “…let his face shine upon you,” would indicate an act of divine pleasure. As Christians, the final strophe of the blessing: “The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” is seen as being fulfilled at the birth of the Messiah, Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
R. (2a) May God bless us in his mercy.
Commentary on Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Psalm 67 is a blessing and has elements of the ancient blessing of Aaron from Numbers 6:22ff. This blessing has more of a plaintive tone (a group lament), or petition asking for a bountiful harvest. It points to the universal salvation promised by God to all the peoples.
Reading II: Galatians 4:4-7
Commentary on Gal 4:4-7
“God sent his Son, born of a woman.” This passage, taken as part of the Gospel proclaimed by St. Paul, provides the Galatians with the important fact that Mary gave birth to Jesus. He did not mystically appear to us. Jesus is (was) true man: meaning he went through the biological birth process. It also means that Mary, the Mother of God, went through the difficult physical process of giving birth.
St. Paul goes on to remind us that, through this action, we are all adopted by God and are entitled to call God our Father, “Abba,” a familial term of endearment (translated into American usage as “daddy”).
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
Commentary on Lk 2:16-21
The message, given to the shepherds by choirs of angels, that they in turn brought to Mary, that she kept and reflected about in her heart was: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Luke 2 11-12)
This encounter with the shepherds further reinforces Mary’s faith, the acceptance of her child’s role explained to her by the Archangel Gabriel when this wonderful and tragic journey began.
Homily for the Octave Day of Christmas – The Solemnity of Mary
First, let me wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. This is a time when we generally take stock of what we want to accomplish in the upcoming year and resolve to take positive action to accomplish those new goals. We may vow to lose weight, save money, or to work harder at school or at our jobs. Our New Year’s resolutions are made so that the year ahead will see us happier and more fulfilled going forward. Ironically, we also celebrate on this day the Solemnity of Mary, the high feast day of the Blessed Virgin, in whose son’s birth we rejoiced just eight days ago. I say “ironically” because she, more than any other saint we venerate, more than any other person in the history of humankind, points to that which can give us all the happiness and fulfillment we can imagine – the peace of her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
On this holy Octave day of Christmas, St. Luke’s story of the nativity continues with the announcement by the shepherds of the news they had heard from the heavenly hosts (Luke 2:8-14). In the context of the times, this would have been a singularly amazing event: shepherds abandoning their flocks (they never left their flocks), coming to the little town of Bethlehem in awe and wonder seeking a manger and a newborn child.
The Magi had not yet arrived and Joseph and his bride were in humble surroundings with their newborn child. Here come a group of shepherds praising God, astounded to find this new King as they had been told, wrapped in swaddling clothes in the stable. It was true: God’s messengers had announced this momentous birth, not to kings and princes, but to lowly shepherds. It was they who gave the Prince of Peace the first praise upon his entry into the world as man.
Within this incredible scene is the new mother, Mary, Blessed Virgin, Mother of God’s great gift. What must she have thought, seeing these reclusive herdsmen mysteriously drawn there by angelic choirs? We recall that God’s touch-points with her had been early in her pregnancy. She was told what to expect (as was St. Joseph) but that had been some time ago. Even the greeting of St. Elizabeth (“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”) had been several months earlier. The little mother must have been somewhat puzzled by the events as they had unfolded. To our best knowledge, she was never told that she would not have this child in the traditional setting, in her home with kinswomen around her. When she came due and delivered this baby in a manger, of all places, she must have wondered if Gabriel’s message and St. Elizabeth’s greeting had been a dream.
But here come shepherds, praising God and giving thanks for her Son, God’s Son, now nestled in her arms. They spoke of heavenly hosts and glad tidings of great joy, and she knew, she knew it was all true. This child she had carried and nurtured was destined to be the salvation of the world, and she had brought this new life into the world. And this gift and responsibility she silently pondered, perhaps again saying in her heart: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior!”
In that opening offering from the Magnificat, we see the attitude of one truly “full of grace.” In her humility she shows us the grace of her then unborn Son, already giving the gift of God’s peace. What more can we hope for from our New Year’s resolutions than to find an interior peace that gives us the ability to overcome all obstacles, to endure any trial?
As we consider what we hope to accomplish in this New Year, let us make a pledge to emulate Mother Mary, and put it at the very top of that list. If we, like the Blessed Virgin, focus all our efforts for the greater Glory of God through Christ Jesus, our Mother’s prayers will be with us and our success will be that much more assured.
On this, the solemn feast of Mary, we remember how she began her wondrous and tragic journey. We see her sacrifice, faith, and grace as examples of what we strive to become in the service of the Son she gave us, the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. Today we pray fervently for her intercession, for she has become Queen of Heaven, and as such, has the special favor of her Son. May we faithfully continue our journey to Jesus this year and conform ourselves to Him and his mother.
 Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
 The picture is “Madonna of the Harpies” (detail) by Andrea Del Sarto, 1517