1st January, 2017
The book of Numbers, Chapter 6, verses 22-27 tells us of the origin of a Blessing which has been in use by the Jewish people from centuries before Christ up to the present time. It is now generally referred to as the Benediction and as such is used by many Christian denominations though not generally by Catholics. The words are very poetic and express a crescendo both in rhythm and in meaning. In the first phrase the general term ‘bless’ becomes made more precise with the word ‘keep.’ It is a blessing that God maintains us in existence. The second phrase asks that He smiles on us and as He looks He is draw to favour us (to feel gracious towards us). And the third phrase tells us God actually reveals His face to us and this mystery gives us a deep sense of peace whatever troubles we may have.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is addressed to a people who were thought to descend from Celtic tribes (according to Caesar in his writing about the Gallic Wars). In chapter 4, verses 4-7 Paul really tries to explain the dual nature of Jesus, being both human and divine. For a time Christians often used the phrase ‘born of Mary’ as a way to express His humanity, but after the Council of Ephesus in the fifth century the title we use today Mary, mother of God, was used to emphasise that Jesus also needed mothering like any human person. But Paul goes on to elaborate that the consequence of God’s Son taking on our humanity is that we share in the same relationship to God – we are children of God and heirs too.
The gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 16-21 is largely the same as last Sunday’s gospel, but adds a reference to the circumcision and naming of Jesus. We notice also the amazement of those who heard the report from the shepherds about the nature of this baby, which caused Mary also to ponder over the meaning and implication of all this. His name is ‘savour’ and this is what He is for humanity – God has become one of us and is dependant even now, in some mysterious way, on us, in order to bring to completion the coming of the Kingdom at the end of time.