Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God
St. Andrew's Cathedral

January 1, 2016

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“At the end of every day, when you’re going through your examination of conscience, list all the good things that happened to you or that you observed on that day. Let the good things that happen to you this year be an ocean of mercy against the worldly torrent of sin and evil."

~ Bishop Gary Gordon

My dear sisters and brothers,

I should begin with “Happy New Year!”

    The First Reading gives us a wonderful indication of God’s favour, something to take note of at the beginning of the New Year. It says that God, the Lord, will let His face shine upon you, and the Lord will lift up His countenance upon you. This is a beautiful thought as we begin the New Year: God looking upon us. God shining upon us. As we see in the Christmas Scriptures, the birth of Christ comes about because God has looked upon Mary. God has spoken to her through the Angel Gabriel: Highly Favoured One. God has lifted His countenance upon her.

    Her Yes to God is the first indication of a new path of peace in the world. January 1 is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace, and the Holy Father every year issues a beautiful letter about peace. In his letter this year, he also looks back at 2015, and sees what he describes as “a third world war fought piecemeal.”

    We’ve all been watching the news. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t watch the news. Oh—I don’t watch the news. I don’t have a TV; I don’t want a TV. But I do listen to news on the radio, and leading up to New Year’s Eve, as I was listening to the radio, I heard lots of stories about 2015. Many of them were about profound violence and abject poverty, terrible situations of evil and sin on the earth. The Holy Father says the answer, for all of us as Christians, is ‘mercy’, and that we are invited to ‘take on indifference’. In other words, take it on—be a counter-message to indifference to the poor, to the margins, to the suffering, to the plight of the world and the plight of the environment. He says indifference to God leads to indifference to neighbour and indifference to the environment.

    But Pope Francis is not using his World Day of Prayer message as simply a repeat of news stories; rather, he paints a picture of profound hope, which is also what I want to do. Indeed, I know there are far more stories in 2015 about amazing good. Amazing grace. Profound works of mercy. I know this from my experience of my family here at the Cathedral, and in the Diocese. Somehow the good news stories don’t get printed, or they don’t seem to make it to the national news. But they are there, and they are real. Because of the birth of Christ, the ocean of mercy swallows up the torrent of sin and evil in the world.

    Let me draw you a practical example of how the ocean of mercy is so much greater than the torrent that we sometimes see on the news. How many of you have been to Hell’s Gate? It’s a torrent of chocolate-brown, raging water that boils down the interior of British Columbia. It’s called the Fraser River. I grew up on the that river. I used to go log burling on the Fraser, on the log booms in Burnaby. My mother usually wasn’t too pleased about that!

    You look at that raging torrent which we often refer to as ‘Old Muddy’, and then you look at the Juan de Fuca Strait in the Pacific Ocean. Is the raging torrent of Hell’s Gate, that muddy, turbulent, out-of-control river visible out there? Can you see it out there? No. The ocean of Mercy swallows up the seething torrent of rage we so often experience on this earth. We, as the Church, as God’s people, are invited to make that ocean of mercy available to everyone. To literally take on, in solidarity, the lives of the broken, the poor, the hurting, the suffering. To be instruments of God’s ocean of mercy.

    This is the New Year. Let us turn the page. Let us begin anew. Let us know that God’s face is lifted up upon us, looking at us, and that the life of peace begins right here—in our own hearts, where the greatest battles between good and evil always begin. Let us open our hearts as we go through the Door of Mercy, to receive the Prince of Peace. To receive the grace of Christ, so that we can, with our Blessed Mother Mary, say Yes to peace, Yes to mercy and Yes to the reign of God’s kingdom in our lives, and in our world, as we begin the New Year. The new year.

    I would like to issue you an invitation for this New Year. At the end of every day, when you’re going through your examination of conscience, list all the good things that happened to you or that you observed on that day. Let the good things that happen to you this year be an ocean of mercy against the worldly torrent of sin and evil. Remember the good. Inscribe that good, rather than the torrent, on your own heart. Let the ocean of mercy flood your heart and your spirit; and let it carry you into the world as merciful hope, with His grace.

    In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

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