New Year’s Mass – Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
Lk 2:16-21

"2011 - Pondering on God’s Presence and Providence"


Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on Saturday 1st January 2011

We are all here today rightly to thank God for all the blessings that we recEeived during the year 2010 that has gone by, and then to ask for His continued blessings for the coming year, 2011. You will agree with me that coming here in faith for this reason is far more important and meaningful than to toast champagne to pass the year. 

I am not against having parties and social gatherings; they are good and very important when they are wholesome.  However, what we are doing here today as a community is to express our deep gratitude to God who is the source and essence of our lives.  We can be sure that without God we would not have survived the year and nothing good could have happened to us.

I want to get straight to the point of what I want to emphasise in my homily today and pose us a very simple and basic question.  The quality of our lives and what is primarily going to happen to us in 2011 depends to a great extent on how we answer this personal question that I am to pose us.  And the question is simply this, “Am I willing to spend more quality time in silent prayer and contemplation this year?”  If we do, then in all probability, the year 2011 will be grace-filled and we will truly find the deeper meaning, fulfillment and happiness in life that God wants to give you and I.” 

But, if we don’t then, sadly at the end of 2011, we will find that it’s just another year of our life that has gone by with no significant and no qualitative changes in our lives for the better in our homes.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, many of us here would have to admit how true this statement is for us during the year 2010 and even in the earlier years.  We may have achieved many things in the secular world, but the fundamental truth remains for us that unless our successes and achievements are attributed to God and unless we see them as God’s blessings, there can be no lasting fulfillment and happiness.  Why?  . . . because we are all created to enjoy eternal happiness and thus, all ourachievements and successes in the secular world are but straw and passing. Note that I am not against material and financial blessings; they come from God too.  I am simply emphasizing that when we are blessed by God, do not forget Him!  This happens so frequently.

In other words, what I am trying to say is that, without this silent prayer and quiet contemplation, what probably happens would be that we would continue to live unreflected and routine lives that are filled with activities for our families and homes, but unfortunately we are no different from the many other good people and non-Christians of the world.

But, if we do set aside time and space in our daily living to be with God in the silence of our hearts and ponder on the Truth of Who God is for us and what life is all about, then like Mary, we can be sure that our hearts will be filled with greater desire to live and love God more wholeheartedly.

If we reflect on the life of Mary, we will find that in all situations of her life, her secret of finding strength from God was in her constant connection with God through her unfailing pondering of the mystery of God which she did not comprehend.  When Angel Gabriel announced to her to be the Mother of Jesus, she pondered and searched for God’s Will; when the shepherds glorified God and the Wise men bowed in deep reverence to her child and offered precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, she pondered its mysteries in her heart; when Prophet Simeon proclaimed that “a sword will pierce your heart and your child is to be the cause of the fall and rise of many” she pondered the message in her heart; and when she had to flee to Egypt because King Herod was fearful of her child who is going to be the King of kings, she pondered this in her heart; and when she found her 12 year old Jesus teaching in the Temple and who told her, “Mother, why are you looking for me?  Do you not know that I am to do my Father’s Will?”; when she was at the foot of the Cross and devastated by her Son’s cruel crucifixion, she pondered God’s mystery in her heart.  And when the apostles were overjoyed at Jesus’ Resurrection and were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, she too was filled with the Spirit and was overjoyed . . . and only then the mysteries of God began to make great sense to her. . . all along throughout her life here only source of strength which she drew from God was through her constant pondering of how God wants her to live her life.

We all find life to be filled with unanswered questions of “why this and why that has to happen to us and others like, “Why is there so much sufferings in the world, why is must so and so die of cancer when she is such a young mother of three children, what about the typhoon Nargis that killed thousands of people and destroyed the homes of more than 2 million people and the like.  There is no end to questions that we have, but one thing is sure, God’s Love for us is infinitely personal, unconditional and merciful.  This is the divine mystery that Mary pondered daily throughout her life and you and I too are called ponder on daily. 

When we do not ponder on how God’s providence and care is providing for us in our daily lives, what is happening is that we are then trying to live our daily lives on our own efforts and ways, and as such, our lives would be filled with things that we have and do, but at the end of the day, we remain unfulfilled.  

My sisters and brothers in Christ, there is an infinite difference between living an ordinary life that allow things to happen and living a ordinary live that is able to see and sense God’s presence and better still able to see and sense God’s providence and Will unfolding in our lives through the daily happenings of our day.  True happiness in life can only be experienced and sustained if we live a life that is built on our union with God. 

How else can we explain about Bertha’s life.  She is a resident of St Theresa’s Home for the Aged’s life.  She acted as one of the shepherds in our Parish Christmas pageant recently.  Bertha lost both her arms and legs due to some illness about ten years ago buts she says, “I accept my condition as the Will of God; I am grateful for God’s gift of life and I do not allow myself to be overcome by self-pity.”  Bertha not only has no bitterness in her heart; daily she exudes joy and is a life wire in the home and a source of peace and unity to others.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, it is good to take note of another point.  We should not depend on luck to see us through this coming year; it is absolutely secular and unchristian to make remarks like, “I hope this year is going to be a lucky New Year.  As Christians, luck, coincidences, feng shui, or worse still superstitions should never be the source of our hopes for things to change for the better. It unbelievable how millions of people’s lives are built on such false hopes; it’s no wonder that casinos, Toto, 4-Digits and all other lottery betting are raking in billions of dollars each year.

If we want this coming year 2011 to be truly happy, then we have to get real so to speak.  Only our reliance on God’s Providence and our trust in Him to provide for all our needs can we be sure that 2011 be a good year.  Christ and not the secular world of “luck” should be our only security and true hope.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God should be our model of how we can have God at the centre of our daily living.  

And as I conclude, let us each ask ourselves again, “If I were to look back on the year 2010 that has just gone by or the earlier years of my life, can I honestly say that I have no regrets and have truly lived in God’s Ways?  And if I do have regrets, then could I have lived a more meaningful, fulfilling and happier life?  Would this have come about if I had spent more time pondering and praying in silent contemplation, like Our Lady, on how God wants me to live my life for Him and not how I think I should live my life quite independently of Him?”.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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