I would like to wish all my readers a very happy and a holy New Year 2013. Let us hope it will be a better year than 2012.
We begin the new year by celebrating The Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God on New year's Day, followed by the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on January 6, also known as Little Christmas.
On January 1 we honor Mary as the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. This day is also a special day when we pray for peace in the world. It is interesting that we mention both Mary and peace on New Year's Day. We really need peace in today's world. We have had so much violence in the world, in the war stricken Middle East, Africa, and Asia. We also have so much sporadic violence in the North of Ireland. We need so much peace in our families, where we have many problems, arising from many factors, such as economic, social and marriage issues, the breakdown of religion, and the effects of sin. Mary is our mother and the Mother of the Church and in times of need who better to turn to than her.
To honor Mary on January 1 is a great way to begin the New Year. Paul in the Second Reading tells us that "God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” We can call God "Abba" which means addressing God in a most affectionate way. We are sons and daughters of God. Mary is our Mother, so the Church is today emphasizing that we are a big family.
The First Reading of January 1 offers an ancient blessing that God told Moses to have Aaron say over the people God had freed from slavery and led to a new land and a new freedom. This is a wonderful blessing. God is a God of blessings and Mary embodies God's abundant blessings:
"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! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them."
We the Church are the New Israel and we begin the New Year with the Blessing of God upon us and we have Mary the Mother of God as our intercessor.
On January 6, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, when Christ was revealed as the Savior for all nations. God revealed himself to the Jews through the scriptures, and to the Gentiles, the non-Jews through nature. Matthew shows the Three Wise Men or Magi receiving a revelation through astrology. We have the paradox that the Jews who have the scriptures reject Jesus while Gentile come and with the help of the scriptures find and adore him.
The great message of this feast is that Jesus Christ is a savior and redeemer for all peoples. The very early Christians were all Jewish and it took a lot of work on the part of Paul and Peter to convince the Christian Community in Jerusalem that Christ came to bring salvation to all people and not to the Jewish people alone. The sign of being a Christian was Baptism. The sign of being a Jew was circumcision and presentation to the Lord in the temple. People are creatures of habit and they get used to thinking in a special way. We still today have people who find the teachings of Vatican too difficult to stomach.
As I told you last week, I am presently enjoying a quiet few days in Ireland. The Christmas week has been quiet and there is not much mention of the controversial social issues. People here are so fed up with the issue of allowing abortions in certain cases, the violence in the North which has again reared its head, not to mention the looming new house taxes. I also read in the newspaper that many people will lose their medical cards this year. You know I feel sorry for the people here as many are at breaking point.
I asked some people how they saw things in the North of Ireland developing. They seem confident that it is only a small group which is causing the problems. They feel the peace will hold and strengthen. I sincerely hope they are right. The recent publication of the Government Papers of 30 years ago, revealed rather interesting information. Charles J. Haughey made some statements regarding the Falklands War, which apparently caused Anglo/Irish Relations to plummet for many years. Margaret Thatcher was some tough lady, as it seems Ronald Regan also found out.
The revelation that a Sinn Fein TD presently in Dail Eireann, was found forensically linked by the British Government with some 50 murders in Ireland was viewed with some skepticism by people I discussed the matter with, as they said the British Government was itself linked with many murders. Perhaps the issue may come up in the New Year when the Dail reconvenes There are so many ghosts of the past still lurking over the North of Ireland. Let us hope that the whole of Ireland may be blessed with a lasting peace. I forgot to mention that Ireland has the presidency of the EU for the next six months.
Let us also hope that the controversy over the abortion issue may be resolved as it is a most divisive issue presently in Ireland. It appears the original wording of the Amendment to the Constitution in1982, was viewed with skepticism by many legal experts including both Mary Robinson and Garrett Fitzgerald, as the wording did not seem water tight. It is very difficult to frame a new law or an amendment to a constitution, as we are now finding out. I remember that even I myself at the time was a bit skeptical about the wording, and I am no lawyer.
Let us hope we get a good result to this issue.
The big news here in Ireland over Christmas was of course the Fiscal Cliff negotiations in Washington. It was one of the main items in the various news and television bulletins. As I write this the problems seem to be getting resolved, so we look forward to a good economic year in the USA in 2013. Let us all hope our economy may improve and that many issues including the Issue of immigration may be tackled and resolved.
While in Ireland I have spent a lot of my time in Scarriff, Co. Clare at my sister's home. I have been reading a history of the Diocese of Killaloe written by Ciaran O'Murchadha, of Galway University, with wonderful photographs by Fr. John Jones PP of Mountshannon. You know that the Killaloe Diocese takes in part of five counties: Clare,Tipperary, Offaly, Laois and Limerick. It has one parish in Limerick: Castleconnell/Ahane. The seventh century Tuamgraney monastic site, founded by St. Cronan is worthy of note. Accorded parish status in the thirteenth century, its church, now in Church of Ireland ownership, is believed to be the longest in continual use in Ireland. Bishop Frank Caggiano, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn is Titular Bishop of Inis Carthaidh, or Scattery Island, in the Shannon, as it is better known. So Brooklyn Diocese has a connection to Killaloe Diocese. There are many fascination things written about this Diocese, which I hope to tell you all a little more about in coming weeks.