The Things We Carry 2021-1-1 Mary Mother of God, Fr. Roberto
Homily for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Years ABC
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Los Angeles, CA
January 1, 2021
Title: The Things We Carry
Theme: We must carefully choose the things we will carry in our hearts into the New Year.
Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21
Some years ago, I read a best-selling and highly awarded book about a platoon of American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The title was “The Things They Carried.” In the first part of the book, the author describes the extra things the soldiers carried with them during the war, in addition to the many pounds of required military equipment. They had to choose very carefully what extra things they carried because every extra ounce of weight was an added burden they had to carry with them.
Some of them carried an extra gun or ammunition; some, extra food; some carried a Bible or a letter from their spouse or girlfriend or a picture of their children; some carried drugs. The extra things each of them chose to carry said a lot about them, and also were indications of what they carried in their hearts: a sense of duty, love, hatred, anger, fear, addiction, etc. The title of the book – “The Things They Carried” – primarily refers to those intangible things they carried inside their hearts and minds.
Like the soldiers in that book, we too need to choose carefully what we carry with us in our lives, especially the things we carry in our hearts, and particularly as we begin a new year. So my question for all of you today is what do you carry in your hearts as you move into 2021? What joys, precious memories, dreams, hopes…what love? What sadness, pain, anger, bitterness, shame or fears do you carry with you?
Perhaps looking at today’s feast, at our Gospel and especially looking at Mary, will help us choose well what we carry with us into the future. There is so much going on in today’s Gospel with shepherds coming and going, speaking about angels. Mary and Joseph are surrounded by activity, mystery and so much uncertainty about their future. I am sure they were filled with joy, but also with questions, confusion and perhaps even fear. The key line for me in this Gospel is the one that says that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In other words, Mary, had to step back from everything going on around her, think about it, sort it out in her heart and choose what she would carry with her. Like us, Mary had to ask herself, “What do I need to hold on to and what do I need to let go of? What will help me, give me strength and lift me up; and what will burden me and drag me down? What is God saying to me and my family through all this?” These are important questions for us to ask ourselves too. As always, Mary is a great example for us.
So, I ask all of you to take some time in these days and look back at 2020 – or go back further if you wish – and do it prayerfully. Think back on the good times and savor them. Think of the events, activities and people that were part of those good times and pray in thanksgiving for them. Most importantly, try to see God in those moments. Then, revisit the challenges and difficulties of this last year, or further back, and see if there is something you can learn from them; perhaps you can see them from a new perspective. Again, most importantly, can you now see how God was with you even in those struggles? Ask yourself what you need to hold on to, and what do you need to let go of.
After such a challenging and difficult year as 2020, we can be tempted to dwell on all the negative things that occurred and carry that negativity with us into 2021. While we almost never choose the negative things that happen to us, we can choose how we react to them and what we take from them and carry with us. Today, the Lord challenges us to choose what we are going to hold in our hearts and carry forward with us into the future. May we, like Mary, choose to carry good and positive things with us into the New Year. Most of all may we carry Jesus and his love and goodness with us in our hearts, and bring him with us to our families and to our world.
I would like to finish this homily by offering you an opportunity to pray a prayer of surrender to the Lord so that he can help you to choose well the things you will carry with you this New Year.
Prayer of surrender:
Lord, at the beginning of this New Year, I come to you,// grateful for all your blessings in the past //and hopeful for the year to come.
Jesus, I lift up to you the burdens// I have been carrying with me for a while now.
I ask you to heal my heart and mind// from the hurts I have received from others // or by my own mistakes; help me to forgive them, //to forgive myself //and to learn from my errors.
Heal my heart and mind from the burdens and sufferings// imposed on me and my loved ones// from the pandemic and its effects. //Help us all work together //to overcome the pandemic soon.
Lord, I give to you my anxiety about the future. // Strengthen my faith and help me to trust// that you will take care of me. // I give you control of my life; //help me to let go and to let you lead me.//
I give to you all that is weighing my heart down.// Give me a grateful heart //and a hopeful heart.//
Give me the grace to be like Mary, your mother;// to carry with me only positive and good things// that will help me.//
I trust you, Jesus, //and I know you will always give me the strength,//and the healing and the peace I need. // Amen.
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