Sunday, Jan. 1, is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Mass Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21.
To mark the feast of the Mother of God, the first reading shares a blessing that we have heard many times in other contexts. Mary helps explain exactly what the blessing means.
“The Lord bless you and keep you!”
The Lord’s greatest blessing isn’t riches, and it isn’t even wisdom, as King Solomon found out the hard way. It is to be “kept” by the Lord.
Paul tells us exactly what this means in the second reading. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption as sons,” he writes. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then also an heir, through God.”
When does this adoption happen? At baptism, which takes away original sin and makes us “belong forever to Christ,” according to the Catechism.
In other words, the great gift of Christianity, according to St. Paul and the Church, is that it makes us like Mary. It takes away original sin, allowing us to be part of God’s family.
What do you need to be “kept” by the Lord? You need to give yourself to him, like Mary did, and refuse to leave through sin.
May the Lord “let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!”
Mary is also the prime example of what it means for the Lord to “let his face shine upon you.”
St. Padre Pio put it this way: “You know well that at the birth of Our Lord the shepherds heard the angelic and divine chants of the heavenly spirits. The Scriptures say so. But they do not say that his Virgin Mother and St. Joseph, who were nearer to the Child, heard the voices of the angels or saw those miracles of splendor.”
What did Mary and Joseph experience?
They were near to Jesus, as he lay in a poorly lit manger.
“Now, I ask you,” said Padre Pio. “Would you not have preferred to have been in the dark stable, filled with the cries of the little Child, rather than to have been with the shepherds?”
Absolutely, we would. The shepherds seem to agree. In today’s Gospel, they respond to seeing the Baby in the manger by becoming evangelists of the greatness of God.
There is no better place to be than in his presence and in his gaze.
Finally, “The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”
The final line of this blessing promises something we all long for: peace. The saints tell us that Jesus often uses Mary to bring that peace.
“In trial or difficulty, I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear,” said St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
That peace is available to all, because she isn’t just the Queen of All Saints — she is the refuge of sinners, too.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What Pope Francis Really Said.