As we come to the end of the year, it is almost inevitable for people to say that this year has passed by so fast. It could have been fast for some while slow for others… depending on the experiences and challenges we faced this past year. Nevertheless everyone looks forward to a new beginning because a new start offers not only renewed hope but also joyful expectations. That is why it is so appropriate that the Church offers us Mary as a starting point for the New Year. Some may ask why not Jesus?

Mary is today offered to us as a Mother – a very significant symbol in most of our lives. The Gospel today presents Mary as the mother of Jesus: The shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.” And then adds: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting them in her heart.” This short passage gives us an indication as to why Mary is presented to us today as Mother and Model.

First, Mary is the mother of Jesus, by whom we are all made God’s children. Secondly, Mary is the exemplar of faith and hope. As she reflected on all that had happened, she slowly discovered the meaning of God’s way and thus continued to do God’s will.

The first example of Mary as Mother is not something unfamiliar to many of us. We see Mary as our mother and refuge as many of us turn to her in the hour of our need. For this reason then, I would like to reflect on the second aspect of Mary that this feast offers for our reflection – Mary as a model of faith and hope. These past days we have been reading the story of Jesus’ birth and we know that Mary herself wasn’t too sure as to what and why was all this happening. Though the gospels do not narrate to us her inner thoughts and struggles in coming to terms with her conception and then the difficult circumstances of Jesus’ birth, what is clear is that she never lost faith in God. In other words, she never lost hope that God will give her the strength to be faithful to His will.

Despite the fact that we are entering a new year and many will be wondering as to what is in store, Mary is presented to us as a model of hope. Just like Mary, none of us knows what is in store in the New Year but there is an assurance that God will not abandon us, His people.

Though I said earlier that new beginnings bring renewed hope, it also brings anxiety because of the unknown that we would have to encounter. We ended the year on a sad note, as one online new portal commented: “A wretched, horrendous year, with little cheer” – the floods in Malaysia, three air tragedies, political and religious uncertainties, maybe the death of a family member or friend… we would like to know if things will get better next year. Can we hope for a better 2015?

Hope does not necessarily mean that there will not be challenges in our lives or that all will get better. The hope that Mary shows us is not one that is false. The hope that she offers us is that God will give us the strength to bear what may come our way – be it good or bad.

When Jesus was presented at the temple, Simeon told Mary that a “sword will pierce your heart”. It only goes to show that even the Mother of Jesus the Saviour of the world was not spared of pain and anguish. The difference is that she knew God will give her the strength to withstand whatever may come her way. This is the new beginning that we all need – a renewed hope that we would have the awareness that God walks with us every moment of our lives. Being a believer and a disciple of Jesus does not protect us from challenges but the difference is between hope and despair.

Despair is when we feel all is lost and not worth trusting in God because of the pain we feel. However, hope is when we know and feel that we can still stand up and face tomorrow despite the deep pain and confusion as to not knowing why all this is happening. This is what Mary offers us today – a mother and model of hope. A mother never loses hope on her child no matter how bad the situation may be. A disciple of Jesus never loses hope in God no matter how bad the situation may be. Blessed New Year 2015.