Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Blessed Virgin Mary

Reading 1 NM 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8.

R. (2a) May God bless us in his mercy.
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. May God bless us in his mercy.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. May God bless us in his mercy.

Reading 2 GAL 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.

Alleluia HEB 1:1-2

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

Homily – Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Beginnings and Blessings

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (P 38)

            January 1st you will be wishing everyone a “Happy New Year!” But, if you want this year to ever remain new and happy, let this year begin with: (a) God’s blessings, (b) Jesus’ name, (c) the Spirit’s breath, and (d) a plea for ‘Mary’s maternal protection. Like some competent composer harmoniously weaving four voices into a single musical score, Mother Church blends these four strains into one liturgical symphony that will, unfailingly, set this New Year off with a bang!

            The first reading’s blessing that Yahweh tells Moses to impart to Aaron and his kinsfolk is beautiful. This Aaronic blessing is a remarkable Old Testament anticipation of the Church’s Trinitarian faith (see threefold “Holy” of Isa 6:3). The last line of the passage is important: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

            Name, in the Biblical tradition – whether of God or of a human being – is very important. The name of God signifies God’s being and all that God has done in salvation history. Thus, to bless in God’s name is to publicly profess that God Is, and God acts on behalf of God’s people. Thus, in the very act of blessing, God’s name is, so to say, relayed from one generation to the next.

            The feast of the name of Jesus, celebrated today, is intimately connected to the motherhood of Mary, and is well expressed in the second and third readings. The name ‘Jesus’ (meaning, Yahweh saves) sets the tone for Jesus’ mission. The second reading(alternative one, from Philippians) reads, “God bestowed on him(Jesus) the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (vv .9-11).

            The reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians – “God sent forth his Son, born of woman that we might receive adoption as God’s children” – reveals our vocation of being children of God. This is a reiteration of the Christmas theme, namely, the Son of God becomes human so that all human beings might become daughters/sons of God. Moreover, it reveals Mary’s unique role in the story of salvation.

            Besides mentioning circumcision and the naming of Jesus, the gospel shows Mary “pondering these things in her heart.” Early in the Christian tradition, Origen (approx. 185 – 254 AD.) gave Mary the title Theotokos (Greek, ‘God-bearer’) that was upheld by the Council of Ephesus (43 l). Mary’s not only) Mother of God’s Son, Jesus, but also Mother of us all. Moreover, she is a model of both, action and contemplation. Mary thus brings bountiful blessings for all her children. Invoke her blessings for this New Year!

            In Tamil Nadu, south India, it is fairly common for the faithful to approach priests with the request: “Father, please bless me!” Unaccustomed to such traditions in the north and west of India, I used to be quite embarrassed when approached with such requests. Many blessings later, I now unhesitatingly bless people with the name of the Trinity fully aware that it is God’s blessings they seek, not those of a fallible priest.

            In the popular musical ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’ someone asks the wise Rabbi: “Is there a blessing for the Czar?” The Rabbi Replies, ‘May God blesses and keeps the Czar far away from us!” Indeed, there’s a blessing for everything and everyone. So, don’t hesitate to breathe a Spirit-blessing upon your whole world – your body, your Work, your studies, your friends and this New Year. Let everything and everyone fill your mind as you whisper the words, “I bless you with the holy name of Jesus!”

            Last but not least, remember, God has created you to be a blessing. May this New Year find us being blessing unto all. Thus, with the name of Jesus under the protection of Mary, and with the breath of God’s Spirit, let’s pray that prayer of Dag Hammarskjold: “Lord, for all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!”

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