A happy new year to all! In today’s first reading from Numbers, God speaks to us an ancient and beautiful blessing: 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! Beautiful! It is God’s desire to bless us in this new year. We thank God in this Holy Mass for all our blessings from 2016 and pray his blessing upon our 2017.
But I want us to think about a couple years way back.
The first year I’m thinking about is the year 314. That is the year that Pope Sylvester I became the 33rd Holy Father of the Christian Church. It was his feast day yesterday. He was kind of a pioneer of public worship–the kind of worship we are used to in churches like this one. Until his time, people went to Mass in one another’s homes. But the faith was spreading and growing, and with Constantine, the faithful no longer had to fear persecution. So, under Pope Sylvester I, churches began to be constructed. He commissioned the building of St. John Lateran in Rome, the pope’s parish, and also St. Peter’s. He said, though, that even though folks would be going to Mass in churches, that they must never forget that the home is the domestic church. The Catechism continues to teach this today. The family, the house is the smallest parish we will ever know, but it is there that we learn and practice virtues and faith. I say this to announce that the Knights of Columbus here are starting up a new initiative called “Building up the Domestic Church.” More later, but the point is this: families must pray together, must love God together. We recommend that you use the prayer on the prayer cards that will be distributed after Mass to consecrate your family to the Holy Family.
The other year I want to talk about is 431. In that year, the Council of Ephesus agreed that the practice which had been in place since the start of calling Mary the “Mother of God” is right and just. Mary, they asserted, is Theotokos, “God-bearer.” She is mother of God because she is mother of Jesus and Jesus is God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. It is said that the crowds were so happy that the Council declared this that they cheered and had signs in the streets saying, “Long Live the Theotokos!”
Mary, God bearer, Mother of God….she is the one we celebrate today! I remember something Fr. Rick Nagel said last year on this night. He said that Mary was the first one to ever do a holy hour. As she held her baby Jesus in her arms, she adored her son and her God. What a beautiful thought. Likewise, Joseph and everybody else in the manger scene–they did a holy hour on that dark, cold night. The wise men, they came from afar, and when they arrived to the altar of the crib, they also bent down on their knees and adored. Those first holy hours, those done by the Blessed Mother and St Joseph and the wise men and even the sheep and the oxen–those holy hours teach us some things. I have a few reflections about the practice of adoration.
- First, those first holy hours teach us that we must adore Jesus! My friends, a Christian life without adoration is not a Christian life! We must adore our God, on bended knee and with bended heart. We must get “lost in wonder, love and awe” in the presence of our Eucharistic king! We can never forget that Jesus is as truly and wonderfully present in our adoration chapel as he was present in the manger in Bethlehem (which means house of bread). And we adore him there following the example of–and in the company of!–our ancestors in faith.
- Second, we go to the adoration chapel for a host of reasons: to find peace, to find direction, to find answers, to find companionship. We go there to give thanks and seek help. We go there to be recharged and refreshed. And we desperately need all those things–and we lose them all when we neglect our time there.
- My third thought about adoration. I think we should have more people doing holy hours here. We have a lot of house covered by only one person, and some are not covered at all. We are a big parish and we should have lots more people doing hours. Can you imagine the manger without all the people there? An abandoned adoration chapel is just as sad a thought. I know some parishes where, if you want to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, or teach Sunday school or in the parochial school, then you must do a holy hour. I think that is a wise rule. Because if we want to distribute Jesus and teach about him, I don’t think spending one hour with him in the chapel a week is too much. Men: we especially need men to take night hours. It is not a good idea for the women to be out and about alone at night. And think of the example it will give your children when you excuse yourself for an hour once a week in the evening to go pray. Heck–take the kids with you!
- I think a lot of people think they’re too busy for it, or that they don’t know how to do it. There is no wrong way. Some people read the bible, some do a rosary, some read the lives of the saints or some other material. Some just sit and enjoy the silence and listen for God’s voice there. Some do ACTS–15 minutes of Adoration, 15 minutes of Contrition, 15 minutes of Thanksgiving, and 15 minutes of Supplication. Whatever works! St. Francis de Sales said, “Everyone needs 30 minutes of prayer a day, unless you’re busy. Then you need a full hour.” Too busy is not a great excuse to not do a weekly holy hour. Don’t have a sitter and you’re alone with the kids? Take them in! They will thank you for it one day. If they get squirrelly in there Jesus doesn’t mind nor should anyone else. When we are feeling really busy–that’s when we need it the most. Otherwise we tend to think it all rests on our shoulders, it’s all up to us. Going to a holy hour reminds us: God’s got it covered and it’s all in his hands.
- I’m all for just dropping in sometimes, and I encourage those “little visits.” But I suggest signing up for an hour. That way you will be there. It doesn’t matter if we have one person on for an hour or 12. If you can commit to some hour (e.g., 9pm Tuesdays), then please sign up. Look on page two in the bulletin for how.
Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to follow the example of Mary, Mother of God, as she held her God in her arms and adored Jesus. Do that and we’ll have the best year ever.