Numbers 6, 22-27
- Today I am fortunate to be able to repeat this blessing from
God for the people. The Lord bless you and keep you.
- I remember
the blessing that parents give to their little ones. We want God to take care of them when they are away
from us. Some of us continue asking for the blessing even as adults.
- But listen
further to how you shall bless the Israelites. There is more than safety at stake here.
The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. Doesn’t this
sound like prosperity, like the prayer of Jabez? Listen and repeat it.
- Finally, the third blessing.
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace. Now we go beyond material well-being
to a realm where God’s designs are at work, where all of God’s goodness is reflected, and where the Spirit’s
fruits are fully realized (one of which is peace).
- The Catholic Church celebrates the first day of the year
as a Universal Day of Peace. That custom, begun with Paul the Sixth, would be another reason for adopting
this reading today.
- Central theme: We receive a wonderful blessing, but our focus is on The Lord
who gives the blessing and who gives it lavishly. These gifts shared with us by God are for us to share
with others, not to hoard for ourselves.
- Message for our assembly: How can we appreciate this gift of safety, prosperity
and peace? How can we share it with the world around us?
- I will challenge myself: To speak the blessing like the
loving father I try to be.
2. Galatians 4, 4-7
- Today we hear
the earliest Incarnation (Christmas) story in the New Testament. When the fullness of time had
come God sent his Son, born of a woman.
- I hear traces of the apostle’s perennial ‘stump
speech’ and his awareness of the new Covenant. Born under the law, to ransom those under
revisions of the Lectionary demanded by the institution continue to rely on phrases that once described a collective humanity,
such as ‘son.’ Here that word is used four times. Because I acknowledge
that such words no longer carry the collective connotation in our common speech, I will not emphasize them here.
For example, in the phrase adoption as sons I will come down strong on ‘adoption.’
The same approach is possible with the other appearances of the word.
- The message for our assembly: Jesus came for us, to bring
us nearer to God. Do we sense the nearness of God? Can one of those intimate hymns help
us? Let us work to achieve an awareness of the Spirit crying in our hearts, Abba!
- Climax: The meaning of
the Incarnation is what it achieves in us who are witnesses to it. We receive adoption as sons.
You are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir.
- I will challenge myself: To step gradually from the doctrine
of Christ’s birth to its implications for us as God’s children, downplaying the collective son while
at the same time building to the climactic word heir.
Gospel. Luke 2, 16-21
week ago, at the dawn liturgy of the Nativity, I heard nearly these same Gospel verses. What fresh approach
can I bring to them now?
- Last week we marked the coming of the child and celebrated the safe landing of the God who came to dwell among his
people. Today we mark the recovery of his mother, and her own discoveries about her child after the birth.
- The shepherds were
told about the infant wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. What they found was Mary
and Joseph and the infant.
- The shepherds first hear it: The message that had been told them
about this child. How do they respond? They made known the message.
And on their return to the pastures, they glorified and praised God.
- Now it is the turn of
the people of Bethlehem to hear it. How do they respond? All who heard it were
amazed. Of course, that includes Mary and Joseph.
- Finally, Mary kept all these things, reflecting on
them in her heart. I will read this as part of the previous sentence. Everyone
else who was amazed eventually forgot about it. But Mary kept pondering its meaning, as she came to grips
with the implications of everything that was happening to her. In my own declaration of the passage, I
mean to bring out the evangelist’s point: that Mary went further. Of course, she was the first person
to spread the good news of her son’s birth.
- The last verse of today’s Gospel became the ‘short Gospel’ that was formerly
read in isolation on this eighth day after the Nativity, formerly called Circumcision Day in memory of the day on which he
was named Jesus. If the prophets’ words begin to be fulfilled with the coming and birth
of the Lord, the circumcision and naming of Jesus continue the path of fulfillment.
- Central theme: The passage is permeated with proclamations
of good news. Luke is reminding us that God’s presence among us is something to be excited about,
and shared with others in that same excitement. I recall that Luke is also the evangelist of the Holy Spirit,
and enthusiasm is a gift of the Spirit.
- Message for our assembly: Unlike in our secular year, the celebration is just beginning for the
church. It will carry over into Ordinary Time. Let’s build upon the joy we felt
at the Nativity.
- I will challenge myself: To convey through my reading
some of that enthusiasm the church so badly needs to recover.
Toward the Eucharist: To whose family do we belong as we
process forward? Is
the living memory of Mary and the presence of her son among us making a difference in our communion?