New Year – Mary, Mother of God
“May the Lord Bless you” (Num 6:24)
Today is a day of blessing. In this New Year, God has blessed us with another opportunity to grow in love, to come closer to Him, and to experience Him in the person of Jesus.
Today is a day of blessing. We honour Mary – she who was blessed among women – as the mother of God. “When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” (Gal 4:4).
Today is a day of blessing. On this eighth day after Christmas we remember the naming ceremony of Jesus. We bless and honour the holy name of Jesus. We acknowledge that there is power and blessing in the name of Jesus. As St Paul tells us in Phil 2:9, 10: “And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus.”
In the first reading of today, from the book of Numbers, we heard the formula of blessing from the tradition of Aaron. I hope, even as we heard it read we enjoyed the blessings of God through his Word. On this auspicious way, I would like to share a brief reflection on ‘blessing’.
The Hebrew word, ‘Berakah’ or the Greek word, ‘Eulogia’ is found at least 200 times in the Scriptures, and especially in the Old Testament. And this can have at least three meanings.
1. It is God who blesses his creation. God blesses human beings. God tells Abraham and even other patriarchs: I will bless you and your descendants (Gen 12:2). Good harvest, children, peaceful family, wealth, happiness, wisdom are all seen as blessing from God.
Mary is blessed among all women because God chose her to be the mother of His Son. A singular grace granted to a human being.
So the blessing of God represents the grace that He showers on us out of His provident love.
Today, as we stand at the threshold of this New Year, we stand in need of His blessing. We do not know what this year holds for us: a new world order, life and death, our own personal plans and projects… To all this we are able to say, “Yes”, because of the blessings of God.
2. The second meaning of ‘blessing’ is the human response of praise and thanksgiving at the awesome presence of God.
The book of Psalms is full of this theme: “Bless the Lord, my soul, bless his holy name” (Ps 103); “I will bless you Lord, in the great assembly” (Ps 26:12); “I will bless you all my life” (Ps 63:4). In the book of Daniel, we find the three young men in the blazing furnace, calling on the whole of creation to join them to “Bless the Lord…” (Dan 3:51-90).
The gospel of today talks about the shepherds having seen the divine child Jesus, went home “glorifying and praising God.” They went home blessing God.
The Jewish prayer/grace before meals, began with these words: Blessed are you Lord God of all creation; through your goodness we have this bread…” This is the same prayer that we use during the preparation of gifts soon after the offertory procession at the Eucharistic celebration.
So the second meaning of ‘blessing’ is to praise and thank God. When we become aware of the fact that we are mere creatures, that it is God who sustains us, and that He is the one who provides for us, we bless Him. We praise and thank Him.
As we begin the New Year, we have reasons to bless the Lord. We thank God for the past year, with its opportunities and challenges, with its achievements and regrets, with the wisdom that we have gained. We praise God for the New Year that is before us: 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds… of opportunity to grow, opportunity to love, and opportunity to experience God in the person of Jesus.
3. And finally, the third meaning of ‘blessing’ is, one human being calling on the grace and peace of God on another person.
In the Old Testament, God tells Abraham and even other patriarchs: “I shall bless those who bless you” (Gen 12:3). In the story of Jacob (Gen 27), God’s blessing is passed on to him, though in a tricky situation, through the words of his father, Isaac. And as we heard in the first reading of today, the priests are given power to bless the people on behalf of God.
But in the New Testament, Jesus tells us: Bless those who curse you (LK 6:28), and pray for those who hurt you. In other words, Jesus invites us to call on the blessing of God on our friends and foes alike. In praying for another person, we make a wish for the other person. We wish the same peace and serenity that we enjoy in the presence of God. And in this way, we bless others.
On this New Year day, let us seek the blessings of God on our dear ones. May the blessing of God come down on our families, on our workplaces, on our gatherings. May God bless our New Year resolutions!
“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his face and bring you peace” (Num 6:24-26).
Fr. Franco sdb