It was January, right around this time, last year that I first mentioned to my wife: “It feels like the earth is starting to shift.” This was my way of expressing what I had been feeling over the preceding weeks - what in Spanish is sometimes referred to as a “presentimiento”; a vague sense or premonition of a change, yet unseen, but in motion… and approaching.
I couldn't put it precisely into words: the sense that I had was similar to what we all might feel at an impending change of season; when a crisp new chill replaces the still warmth of a summer morning; or the moment when we begin, almost reflexively, to reach for long-sleeved shirts, or sweaters in our closets as Fall ushers in. No one needs to say anything. It just happens, and you feel it. A new season is coming. The earth begins to shift.
Over the course of 2022, the “earth shifting” for my wife Jessica and I would come to involve a steady unveiling of unforeseen events. Some of these events would be deeply unpleasant, others extraordinarily beautiful: the birth of a new granddaughter, the death of a father figure; a threat to our homeless ministry, a restructuring of my business; our youngest child becoming an adult, the end of a parish assignment and the beginning of a new one. Countless new and beautiful ministry experiences. All of these ushering into our lives, not only a change, but a new season.
I can imagine this new sense of season, this idea of the earth shifting was precisely what Our Lady may have perceived in the weeks and months before her fiat, her “yes” to conceive in her womb, and to be a Mother to Jesus, the Son of the Eternal Father. In my spiritual imagination I see Mary with a sense of a deep, difficult but at the same time wonderful change approaching. A change which would itself be unveiled in a series of events; awe-inspiring, tender and terrifying at the same time. It is today that the Universal Church marks that change of season, that “shift”, not only of the earth, but of the universe as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. And it is so fitting that this solemnity takes place on January 1, as the whole human family welcomes a new calendar year, with all its promise and possibility. What new things await you? What promises? What difficulties? What opportunities? What challenges? What new beginnings? What final conclusions? Facing these questions can be unnerving, but the answers can be found in the journey of life - a journey of seasons - a journey where the earth shifts often. A journey in which only a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ can truly equip us. A relationship with Christ that is consistent, loving and honest. A relationship full of frequent conversation and contemplation. A relationship like a Mother with her Son. A relationship like Mary’s.