LAST Sunday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This is the oldest and most important title of the Blessed Mother. There are two points that come with this title: one, Mary’s relationship with God that defined her mission, and two, her mission that defined her.
The first reading for last Sunday’s feast is a blessing often used in Jewish and Christian churches. This blessing was given by Yahweh to the Chosen People as they resumed their journey to the Promised Land after almost a year of staying in Mt. Sinai.
The blessing was prayed every day during the journey. It was a prayer for the journey, a send-off prayer for the pilgrim.
These are appropriate points to reflect on as we begin another new year: a reflection on our mission at the beginning of this year’s journey in living out this mission.
The past month, the Blessed Mother figured prominently in the liturgy of the season. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) signaled the beginning of her mission in God’s plan, having been conceived without sin from the beginning of her life, thus preparing her for her mission.
Then in the Simbang Gabi novena of Masses, a novena to the Blessed Mother, the narrative that climaxes in the birth of Christ, has two prominent figures, namely, John the Baptist and the Blessed Mother.
In the Annunciation, we see the Blessed Mother accepting her mission, saying “yes” to God’s call to be the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God.
In the Gospel, we see the “third instalment” in the Blessed Mother’s mission: “Everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
These are the three elements in the mission journey of the Blessed Mother: God’s plan, i.e., we come into this world with a mission, the DNA of our mission is ours from the beginning; the call becomes clear to us, the moment when we “hear our call”; and living out of the call in the day-to-day, working on living out our call and mission.
Looking at and reflecting on our own mission journey, most of us make sense of our entire journey when we heed the call, our mission becomes clear. At this moment of clarity just like in the movies, there is a “flashback” that reviews all significant moments in our life that we then see with “new eyes,” and realize that there are no accidents in God’s plan for our life.
Falling into place
As we often say, everything falls into place. As physician, philosopher, theologian and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Albert Schweitzer aptly put it, “Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know everything happens for a reason.”
Discovering this reason, when things fall into place, is the moment of the clarity of call —a moment of grace dramatically seen in the narrative of the annunciation when Mary says, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38)
Or the moment in the movie “Ignacio de Loyola” when in the great Vision at the River Cardoner, Ignatius understood his entire life. This is cinematically represented with his offering of self, “Take and receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take all my will, my mind, my memory… to you I return them that You may dispose of me wholly according to Your will.”
Or it is the moment that Dag Hammarskjold describes, “I don’t know who, or what, put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone, or Something, and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”
Living out our mission
Then there is the third and final element of our mission journey, the living out of the mission in the day to day. This is the central grace we pray for as we begin the new year, that this year be blessed with the grace of greater fidelity to mission and the grace of living this mission with generosity—with greater love issuing in greater service; living life, living mission with a great soul, cum magna anima.
In the first few days of the new year, a week after the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, let us reflect on how we have lived out our life and mission the past year in preparation for the new.
In a modified form of the Ignatian prescribed prayer, let us picture ourselves before the child in the manger and ask: “What have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What more ought I to do for you?”
And in the words of Mary, Mother of God, as we listen to our heart and soul in this quiet solitude, in this sacred space with the child in the manger, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2: 5)
As we emerge from this sacred space to begin our journey in the new year, let us pray for and bless one another in the words of the ancient benediction: “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!”
May we all have a grace-filled New Year.
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