Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated a Jan. 1 Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. The feast day honoring the Blessed Mother is celebrated on Jan. 1 each year, the octave (eighth day) of Christmas.

In his homily, the cardinal expressed how the beginning of a new year brings both assessment of the past year and anticipation and hope for the future. While there may have been traumatic failures in the past year – violence, destruction of lives, homes, communities and personal freedom—there is hope in God’s mercy and love, said the cardinal.

“God continues to make his love, forgiveness, compassion and mercy available – present – for each of us,” he continued. God’s words in the Gospel should never be taken for granted, but listened to with wonder and awe like the shepherds and angels at the manger.

“The Christmas story is the reason why we can gather today – in hope – to make our resolutions for a better year. Not only did God send his Son to us but as we listen in the second reading the Son not only became one of us but invites us to be united to him in a way that we become adopted children of God. The mystery and challenge of Christmas is the invitation we receive to a better life, a new life, one of grace – Son-ship.”

We enter this new life through faith that is nurtured and strengthened throughout each year and every year, the cardinal explained. The new year starts with the celebration of Mary, Mother of God, who listened to God’s word and answered his call, because she is the model of faith and belief for all.

“All of this the Church holds up for us as we begin a new year and so we can look forward with anticipation, even enthusiasm, to a New Year,” the cardinal said. “We, too, are blessed by God and so we pray that the Lord would bless and keep us, the Lord would let his face upon us and be gracious to us and that the Lord will continue to look kindly on us and give us peace.”