We all wish one another, “Happy New Year” today. We hope each year that this year will be better for us than the past year was or, in some rare and fortunate cases, as good as the past year. The blessing that the Lord taught Moses to pray over his people says it all: 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. A simple prayer; the prayer which God himself taught us, we are told.
We have many echoes of this Biblical prayer: when we offer a mere, God bless you, this is the shortest, the most commonly heard wish. Not because someone sneezes but because I truly wish that I want God to be close to you and I say it because I really mean it. We might even try saying, God be with you, today instead of Happy New Year. Or say both: now that would get people’s attention! How simple but how much richer, more meaningful to wish each one another: Happy New Year; and Peace be with you. Today is the Church’s World Day of Peace; might we not wish peace to one another and really mean it?
Just a week ago at the First Mass of Christmas, we heard in the Gospel what the heavenly host sang when the news of the Savior’s birth was proclaimed: Gory to God in the highest–highest glory ever given to God; but on earth peace—peace to whom God favors. Whom does God favor? God favors all those who are people of peace. Remember the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: if you want peace give peace; if you want love give love. To God be the glory and to the people be his peace. Peace and love: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. They are the ones who shall come to behold the glory of God.
What does any of this have to do with today’s feast which we are celebrating–the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God? It has everything to do with today’s feast, doesn’t it? Who is it who is my mother? Who are those who are my brothers and sisters, Jesus asked. Those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Those who are peacemakers. Those who live like Mary and Joseph at Nazareth, the Holy Family, a family of peace. Where does peace start? In the home, doesn’t it? With those who live with me, wherever my community may be. There, may peace be with you and may God bless you.
Today’s feast of the Mother of God is part of the Christmas feast, the Octave Day of Christmas, the eighth day when the divine infant was given his name and enrolled in Israel, a son of Abraham. They named him Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb of his Virgin Mother Mary. As Joseph was told in a dream one night: You must name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. This is the savior whom God has promised you, the savior of the world. Today in the city of David is born to you a savior who is Christ the Lord. And, by the way, you will find him lying on straw in a cattle trough, a manger, with his mother resting in the straw next too him.
Such is the mystery of the feast we celebrate this day–a day for glory, a day for peace. A day for reflecting on these things in our hearts. A day for thanking God for the merciful mother whom Jesus gave us, the mother of our savior, our mother.