This Sunday is the first day of the calendar year and what better way to start the year than by honouring Mary, Mother of God, with a solemnity to her name. The liturgy on this first day of the year honours Christ’s mother and our mother because it was she who said “Yes” to the Lord to bear the saviour of the world. We start the new year by saying “Yes” to whatever it is that the Holy will of our Father will bring us this year.
In the First Reading, from the Book of Numbers, the Lord tells Moses to tell Aaron, the head of the Levitical priests, to bless people in this way: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. / May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. / May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”
There are many reasons why the Church has given us this reading from the Book of Numbers to honour our mother. Here are a few.
Through Mary came the greatest blessing that humanity will ever receive. It was she that embraced the Lord’s will, and it was she that bore, nursed, taught, and raised Jesus, the Son of God and our saviour. We could never give her enough gratitude.
Catholic tradition will often name Jesus as the “Face of God.” This idea typically comes from Colossians 1:15, which says that “He is the image of the invisible God.” Well, if you look again to the blessing in our First Reading, we see that twice it references the “face of the Lord.” This gives us a very vivid idea of how high an honour Mary is due: Not only did the Lord’s face shine on her and was it uncovered to her, but she actually formed God’s human face, herself, in her womb! Think about it, Mary conceived Jesus virginally, so no DNA from St Joseph had anything to do with Jesus. Therefore, all of the DNA in Jesus was from Mary. Can you imagine how much He looks like Mary?
In Luke 11:27-28, Luke writes: “As he [Jesus] said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” First, remember that Jesus is the Word of God (the Words of God are not just the words in the Bible). Second, many people think that Jesus, in this passage, is diverting honour away from His mother and moving it to “those who hear the word of God and keep it.” But, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that that’s not right.
Jesus is referring to those who receive God’s love, God’s teachings, God’s very life and actually live by it in all that they do. But doesn’t the Church say that Mary was immaculate, i.e. sinless and perfect? Yes! So what does that tell us about this passage? Not only did Mary bear Jesus in her womb; not only was Jesus nourished from her immaculate breasts; not only did Mary hear the word of God and not only did she keep the Word of God — perfectly; but she gave it flesh! No one else in history or in the future will ever be able to claim the same. This is why she appropriately says that all generations shall call her blessed (see Luke 1:48).
It was because of Mary that you and I are saved from our sins in Christ Jesus and are able to participate in the very divine life of God. We start the year with Mary because she always leads us to her Son as she did at the “wedding feast at Cana” in John 2:1-11. It is because of Mary “that God has sent the Spirit of His Son (the Holy Spirit) into our hearts” that makes us “sons in the Son” and allows us to cry out “Abba, Father,” as St Paul says to the Galatians in our Second Reading. It is because of Mary that we are heirs to the promise of God our Father and His heavenly Kingdom.
May you have a blessed new year and may you, like Mary, treasure all the things that the Lord has done for you in your hearts (see Luke 2:19).