Solemnity Of Mary, Mother Of God
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 1, 2023
“May God be gracious and bless us and let His face shine upon us.”
This is the refrain from the psalm we have sung today and shows us the theme from today’s readings of blessings.
Blessing in our context means to have God’s presence in us and along with us each day.
A blessing first is not a powerless wish, or a hope, or a polite gesture, but instead it is an empowering and transforming word that accomplishes its purpose.
This is because a blessing does not come from us but has its source as the Father himself in God’s presence being bestowed upon us.
Father Mark or I, will be the first to tell you that if God was counting on us to be the transforming power in the world by our own strength and wisdom, the world would be in big trouble!
Instead, when a blessing is proclaimed, it is God himself who brings His presence into the world through the actions of the Holy Spirit, working through us and not because of us.
Whether it is the blessing of the water for baptism, the blessing during the sprinkling of water on us at Easter, or the blessing of the people as you exit the mass today – you can believe without a doubt that God is present.
At Christmas, we celebrate Christ physically born into the world and His presence among the people 2000 years ago.
But we also celebrate that He is still present to us as a blessing. He is present in the Eucharist of course, but He is also present each day when we love and care for another as we live our Christian faith.
I really like the beautiful quote from the play Les Miserables “to love another is to see the face of God”.
We are God’s blessing in the world today, and we are called also today to reflect on the blessing of Mary as our example and guide.
‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb – Jesus!”
These words are so well known to us in the Catholic Christian tradition – they are the words of scripture – from the voice of Elizabeth to her cousin Mary when she comes to visit her to help here during her pregnancy.
Elizabeth says the words we know so well that Mary is a blessing to us and Mary tells us this herself in her response to Elizabeth: “all generations will call me blessed, as the Almighty has done great things”!
We see Mary’s humility that we are called to emulate, as she doesn’t take credit for being blessed and full of grace; but gives that honour to God who has done great things through her.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! This beautiful phrase spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary, shows how God is present in our Holy Mother.
But these phrases are not meant for Mary alone, but also for us, as we are also called by our baptisms to do great things for others and be a blessing in their lives.
In the gospel we see this same message. The shepherds are blessed to be in the presence of the Holy Family when they visit the stable. But it doesn’t stop there as they respond to this blessing in their lives by “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” They spread the message of joy to all!
We are also to spread the message as well because as St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading: “So you are no longer a slave but God’s child, and if a child then also an heir”.
We are sons and daughters of God, we are heirs, we are entrusted to keep passing on the gifts of God to others, and as such, we are blessed!
This blessing we see in the beautiful teaching to Moses and Aaron the priests in the first reading today, where he shows them how they are to bless the people.
He has a threefold blessing for them:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you” – in other words to make himself present to you and protect you on your journey!
“May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you” – therefore to have his face shine on you is to make his presence known to you (to see him face to face and not hidden or far away or unreachable) and fill you with his grace and love.
“May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” – in other words may God pay attention to you and give you fullness of life – the word peace is “shalom” – which means – peace, prosperity, health, safety, completeness and having nothing to fear.
This is the true meaning of peace today – not just an absence of war – but instead a full and completed life given through and with God.
As we begin this New Year – Father will invoke this blessing on us at the end of mass today – may we be truly gracious and humble as God brings his presence into our lives in this most exceptional of ways and may we be blessings to others as we bring his joy, love, peace and kindness into their lives!
Truly, “May God be gracious and bless us and let His face shine upon us.”