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Beginning the new year with hearts ready to be amazed


THIS CATHOLIC’S LIFE - Rev. Michael L. Griffin
by Rev. Michael Griffin - 1/3/2012
There is something interesting about the beginning of a new year. It’s such an arbitrary thing, we just decide by mutual consent that this particular day is the beginning of the year, and while it is really just a day like any other day, it is full of significance.

The days leading up to the first of the year are full of all sorts of lists. We have lists of the best movies and books and TV shows, we hear about the major news events of the year and how things have changed in our world in the last 12 months.

There will be, of course, good things and bad things to reflect upon, times of joy and times of sorrow. They all become a part of who we are, a part of our lives, the things that make us who we are; but while this time of reflection is an opportunity to look back and appreciate, there is also a sense of letting go.

There is a part of this time of year that feels like unloading, a cleaning out.

It is as if we have a full treasure chest that is emptied out and prepared for new gifts. It is a moment of receptivity. We are open to receiving the gifts the Lord wishes to grant us.

It is for just this reason that I love the fact that the new year begins with the wonderful festival of the Mother of God. As we gather to begin again, we are invited to listen to the wonderful words from Luke’s Gospel:

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem
and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

In the midst of this great scene, we have so much amazement and rejoicing. The shepherds are filled with wonder and gratitude that God had come to them…to them, poor and insignificant shepherds. They see a newborn in a manger and it all makes sense to them.

The others are amazed by the story the shepherds tell; a story of angels and glory and the most unexpected coming of God that anyone had ever imagined.

And there is the Mother of God, receiving each word, each teary-eyed gaze upon her son, each moment of amazement as a gift. They are gifts that fill the treasure chest of her heart and she honors each one; honors each one at this moment and she honors each one forever.

It is such a wonderful way to begin the new year, with a reminder that we will be blessed throughout the days ahead with all manner of gifts and treasures; to remember that we will be amazed and surprised by the unexpected working of God.

It is for us to be open to these gifts, to be open to the unexpected and the amazement that will be all around us.

The days of the old year have ended, and the usual, the routine has passed away for us. Our treasure chests are open and ready to be filled with gems of glory, with diamonds of utter amazement.

There will be dark days ahead, times of struggle and pain, but we learn to receive these as gifts as well. We learn because we are open to the mystery of God who comes to us in shadow and in light, in manger and in majesty, in cross and in a resurrection.

The shepherd’s story is ours as well, as is the amazement of the others, as is the pondering, treasure-filled heart of the Mother of God.