We have come to the end of another year. I am sure many of us end this year with a whole range of thoughts and emotions. For some it may have been a year filled with difficulties and challenges while for others it may have been a year where so many things have gone as planned. Whatever year we may have had, there is one thing that binds us together and that is a hope that things will be better in the coming year. However remote that desire may be… there is still an ounce of hope that perhaps keeps us going.

We today celebrate Mary and the title given to her is ‘Mother of God’. Through the centuries, this title has been one that has brought about many debates and disagreements. The focus of our celebration is not about wanting to convince people about the authenticity of this title but to celebrate the Divine Motherhood that Mary shares with all of us. So how does the beginning of a New Year relate to this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God?

The Gospel today presents to us Mary just after the birth of Jesus. She is exhausted not only having gone through labour but prior to that having to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem (approx. 100km).  In this state of fatigue, she now has to entertain some strangers, the shepherds. This is certainly a lot for a teenager to handle (Scripture scholars put Mary’s age as between 14 – 16 years old). I don’t think any of us can imagine the physical and emotional state that she was in… and with no one to help her.

It is interesting that the Gospel writers do not mention the happy moments that Jesus shares with His parents, Mary and Joseph. All we hear is the difficult circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, Simeon telling Mary “a sword will pierce your very soul”, having to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s massacre, losing Jesus in the Temple. Not something that a mother would like to remember her child’s early years. It is possible that the Gospel writers chose to highlight these events was to show that despite all the troubles that Mary had undergone, she chose to remain faithful to the promise she made to God: “Let it be done according to your will”. [One can argue till the cows come home whether Mary would have said ‘yes’ if  she had known the difficulties that will come later?] Mary’s experience in more ways than one reflects our own journey in life. Life is not always a bed of roses since many times it is also a bed of thorns. But yet the Church offers us today Mary as a symbol of hope. It would have been so easy for Mary to give up and say, ‘Oh I cannot take this anymore!’ and it would have been perfectly easy to understand her reasons of wanting to give up. But yet she did not. As we enter New Year, we perhaps have more questions than answers: about life, work, health, children, education, finances, whatever it may be that occupies your mind today… let us not lose hope in God. Mary never lost hope in her Son and in God even when Jesus hung on the cross. In the most painful and crucial moment, Mary never lost hope.

We live in an environment that provides very little optimism to most people. We have lived through a year with financial scandal, religious extremism, unequal opportunities, discrimination, corruption, derogatory remarks, suppression of freedom, decaying values, and the list goes on. In the midst of this all where do we turn to for hope?

The Church offers us Mary as an example. Through the difficulties and pain that she endured, she saw God as her hope and refuge. Let us pray that as we begin a New Year, may we too never lose hope in God even when all may seem bleak… Jesus is the shining star that illumines the darkest moments. Blessed New Year 2016.