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Father Benjamin Roberts: Three prayers for the end of the year
There is a fairly old tradition in the Church, how old exactly I am not certain, that on the final day of the year, and even perhaps on the first day of the New Year, three kinds of prayers be offered. The Latin titles, which are really the first words, for these prayers are "Miserere," "Te Deum Laudamus" and "Ave Maria."
The Miserere refers to Psalm 51, the great canticle of repentance offered by King David after his great sin, that begins so beautifully "Have mercy on me God, according to your great kindness." The Te Deum Laudamus refers to the Church's great hymn of praise sung in the Liturgy of the Hours, a complement to the Gloria sung at the Mass, which begins with the words, "You are God, we praise you." And Ave Maria, the words the Angel Gabriel used to greet Our Lady, "Hail Mary."
Asking for mercy, giving God praise, and turning to Mary; this is not a bad way to end a year. It is in fact not a bad way to end each day.
Today we celebrate the solemn feast of Mary, the Mother of God. We recall today, one week since Christmas day, the naming of the child Jesus. In that holy name through which the dawn and fulfillment of salvation have broken upon us, we receive the blessing of God and the true meaning of life.
Today we hear of the visit of the shepherds to the manger scene. These shepherds (the poor of the world who lived far from the center of society and activity, who are not busy about many things, but concerned only with the care of the flock) are the first to greet the child Jesus. Through the message of an angel and the songs of the choirs of the heavenly host, these shepherds received the good news of great joy to all people that the Savior of the world had been born in the city of David. With haste, the scriptures tell us, the shepherds traveled to Bethlehem. With haste they travelled, and so nothing unnecessary could be taken with them.
The heavy burdens must be left behind, for Jesus Christ desired to sanctify the world by His coming. These shepherds have known mercy. And coming to the Bethlehem, finding Mary and Joseph and the child in the manger, the shepherds proclaimed the message that they had received, and glorified God for all that they had heard and seen. These shepherds have shown us praise. And these shepherds, these simple men, have brought us to Mary, and she has shown us Jesus.
Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, ponders the great mystery of salvation and redemption in her immaculate heart. So we turn to her at the year's transition that we might be transformed.
Mercy, praise and Mary: let us take these words for our New Year's resolution. Let us implore the mercy of God that we can leave the heavy burdens behind us and go with haste to Bethlehem. Let us join our voices to the song of praise that the Church on earth and the Church in heaven sings in praise of the Father's glory. And let us turn to Mary, asking her to keep us in her heart, that we may be brought ever closer to her Son.
Father Benjamin A. Roberts is the parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury. He gave this homily on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. View a slideshow of photos from the Mass on the Diocese of Charlotte's YouTube channel.
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