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The Holy Mother of God – January 1st – Christmas
Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21.
Reading 1 (Num 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.”
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.
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.
I. THEME: The best wish of the New Year
In the beginning of the New Year, we used to wish for each other best wishes, depending on what others want to hear; for example, to businessmen and women, profit and prosperity; to graduate students, success and good jobs; to the farmers, bountiful harvests; to the sick, recovery and health. But what is the best wish of the New Year? The faithful believe it is the wish to have God. The reason of this belief is that if one has God, he has everything. Moreover, it is not a guarantee that if one possesses what other wished for him, he shall be happy; for example, one shall not be happy to win a lottery if his family is broken up. But if one has what God gives, it is a guarantee to be good because God knows what is good for him.
The readings of the New Year center on the blessings that come from God. In the first reading, God taught Aaron the way he must bless the Israelites: must wish in the name of the Lord; must ask God to look upon and to give peace. In the second reading, God showed His love to mankind through the Incarnation. He sets people free from sins; gives them a privilege to become God’s children; and bestows on them the Holy Spirit to urge people to call God, “Abba! My Father!” In the Gospel, God let people, represented by St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the shepherds, to see God. Therefore, when people had God, were looked upon by God, they shall not lack even a single blessing.
1/ Reading I: The best wish: May God looks upon you!
1.1/ One must bless in the name of the Lord: The Lord said to Moses: “Say to Aaron and his sons, thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, “The LORD bless you and keep you.””
According to Jewish tradition, a name represents a man; therefore, God’s name, Yahweh, is identical with compassion, goodness and peace. When God appeared to Moses, He revealed this name to Moses, which means “I am that I am.” When we take the name of someone to ask for something, we want to put our request under his sponsorship; for example, when we end our prayer with these words: “we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen:” we put our prayer under Christ’s sponsorship. In today passage, God also guaranteed this: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
1.2/ May God look upon you: God continued to teach Aaron: May “the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Jewish tradition believes that God sees people, but people can’t see God; whoever sees God, that people certainly die, except those were permitted to see Him. When God looks upon somebody, that one shall be blessed by Him; for example, the Blessed Virgin Mary praised God that: “For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant. From this day all generations shall call me Blessed…” On reverse, when God turns His face away, or looks upon with a sad face, that one shall be cursed.
2/ Reading II: Christ justified people before God.
2.1/ God let His Son to be incarnated to save us from the Law: St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Why must Christ save people from the Law? Because due to the Law that people sinned; they didn’t do what the Law described. The result of sin is death. People can’t be justified by the Law, no matter how hard they tried. To save people from death, God let His Son to be incarnated in Blessed Mary’s womb in order to be born. He himself shall bear all human sins; therefore, human beings can be justified before God. When the Son takes away human sins, he renders the Law ineffective; the Law can no longer confine people in it.
2.2/ God accepted us to be His adopted children through Jesus Christ: Not only set people free from sins, but Jesus also bestows so many graces for people through the mystery of Incarnation. St. Paul said: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So, through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.”
(1) The grace to be God’s children: Because of Christ, people can become God’s adopted children by their faith in Christ, as St. John certified: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:12-13). If someone is a son, he is also an heir. People shall inherit all that God gives to Christ, especially the eternal life.
(2) The Holy Spirit’s grace: In order to believe in Christ, and to call God, Abba! My Father! people must be urged by the Holy Spirit. If someone has the Holy Spirit, he shall not lack any of his blessing, especially the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts.
3/ Gospel: The shepherds came to worship the Infant Jesus.
3.1/ Three reactions of the shepherds: After hearing the angel announced the Good News, the shepherds responded by their three actions:
(1) They immediately went on to look for and found him: The passage said: “And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child.”
We must also be in haste and eagerly as the shepherds in our searching for God. If we don’t search for Him, how can we find Him? The weakness of many of us is to search for all things except searching and learning about God. With such an attitude, it is no wonder why we are still far away from Him.
(2) They glorified and praised God’s love: The passage reported: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
There is no joy which is greater than the joy of the one who experienced God’s love. The shepherds certainly were experienced of God’s love by the Infant Jesus when they looked upon him. Did we experienced God’s love when we looked upon the Infant Jesus in the manger?
(3) They preached and witnessed for this love: St. Luke reported: “and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”
When one experienced God’s love, one becomes God’s instrument to praise and to bring God’s love to all people. St. Francis of Assisi could only sing “the Prayer of Peace” after he was full of God’s love. If all the faithful reacted as the shepherds, all people in today world shall also experience God’s love for them.
3.2/ The Blessed Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart: Mary gave us an exemplar of faith in God. Facing the Incarnation, we don’t need to do much, but to record all things that happened in our memory and to ponder them in our heart, as Mary did. As a human being, the Blessed Mary could question God many things; for examples, why was the Son of God born in such poverty circumstance? Why should God interfere so that His Son didn’t have to escape to Egypt during the night? Not only at Jesus’ birth, but all of her life, Mary witnessed Jesus’ life: sometimes he showed his power to do miracles such as in Cana; other time he was lonely and helpless as on the cross. Mary could ask God many questions, but she chose to be silent and completely trust in God’s plan and love for her family.
3.3/ Naming the child: The name, Jesus, in Hebrew means “God saves.” It was the name which the angel Gabriel told Mary to name him before he was conceived in her womb (Lk 1:31). In the Old Testament, there is one who also bore this name, was Joshua. He was chosen by God to replace Moses to bring people into the Promise Land (Num 13:6). Like Joshua, Jesus was also sent by God to save His people from sins and to bring them into the eternal life in heaven. When giving us Jesus, God has lived as His name indicated. He is the Lord of mercy.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– On the beginning of New Year, let we use Christ’s name to wish for each other to be looked upon by God.
– Since God looked upon, He gave us His Only Son to take away our sins and to make us to be His adopted children.
– In the former time, human beings didn’t have permission to see God; but through the mystery of Incarnation, we are permitted to look upon God through the Infant Jesus’ face.
– With the uncertain economy of the world and of our nation, we don’t know how our future shall be; but one thing we know for certain that those who were looked upon by God, shall lack nothing of goodness and peace.
– We wish our audience everywhere always eagerly to learn Scripture and to live in God’s love and grace. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.