A very Happy and Peaceful New Year to everybody! May Mary, the Mother of God, intercede for us as we embark on 2021.
Here is Father Richard's homily for today
Readings: Universalis: Mass
Power of Blessing
Today we ask for God’s blessing upon us as we embark on a New Year – that we may be kept safe and close to Him. We do this on the Octave Day of Christmas when we hear again about the God-man lying in a manger in Bethlehem. Many illustrations, especially Medieval art, of Christ as a baby and a child depict Him giving a blessing.
In today’s First Reading from the Book of Numbers, we hear the Lord instructing Aaron to bless the People of Israel. Aaron was the first ever High Priest of Israel, and therefore a priest of the Old Covenant – which is why the Lord gave Him authority to bless. So too, in the New Covenant, priests, by virtue of their ordination, give the blessing of Christ Himself because they act in His Person as Head and Shepherd of the Church. It means that whenever we receive a priestly blessing, it is the blessing of Christ. It’s the same as Christ blessing children in the Gospel. It’s a significant moment that means we’re sealed with God’s protection and that we take on a sacred character.
The Lord sets out to Aaron a triple blessing that he’s to give the people of Israel in the Lord’s name: “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.”
This threefold formula is mirrored in the Liturgy when in the special Seasons and Feasts of the Church, the priest can give one of those optional Solemn Blessings at the end of Mass. There’s one, in fact, today especially for “the beginning of a New Year”. They’re the often awkward moments when the end of Mass is a bit different which throws people and no one knows what to do or say until the Priest says the “Amen” response for them! But the words of these blessings are always fitting for the occasion and are rich in meaning and significance.
Today’s blessing says: “May God keep you safe from harm throughout the year.” What poignant words they are especially for this year! The second part asks God for the grace to persevere in the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love and also in the virtue we all have a struggle with at times: patience. The third blessing asks God to invoke His peace upon us, to grant our prayers, “an lead [us] happily to eternal life!” That’s quite a lot we’re asking of God! But we know He is generous and that he’ll bestow these blessings upon us if we ask for them.
Mary the Mother of God, whom we honour today, unites her prayers with the blessing that her Son gives. Our Blessed Lady is only interested in cooperating with the Lord’s will, made clear in her “yes” to becoming the Mother of God-Incarnate at the Annunciation. And too she guides us each and every day to her Son so that we might benefit always from His abundant blessings.
We ask Mary’s prayers – that we may receive abundant blessings from the hand of her Son this year.