In the first reading, we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: “The Lord bless you and keep you. 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” Numbers 6:24–25.
There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us.
They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.
The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary.
To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, the Holy Mother of God, the Church reminds us that our Mother, more than anyone else, received this blessing. In her the blessing finds fulfillment, for no other creature has ever seen God’s face shine upon it as did Mary. She gave a human face to the eternal Word, so that all of us can contemplate him.
January 1 has had many names and many identities through the years. In our secular society, of course, it is New Year’s Day. In the life of the church, it is the octave day of Christmas, a reminder that the greatest feasts in the liturgical year are celebrated for eight days. At one time it marked the circumcision of Jesus, the Hebrew ritual that commemorates the Mosaic covenant. The current church calendar names it as the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, recognizing Mary in the great plan of salvation. Finally, in 1967, Pope Paul VI established a World Day of Prayer for Peace on the first day of the new year.
On this New Year’s Day, think of the faces in your life that bring you peace and joy. Say a special prayer for those people. And on this day of prayer for world peace, ask the Lord to smile in a special way on those areas of our world that most need the light of peace to shine on them.
May this gentle and loving Mother obtain for us the Lord’s blessing upon the entire human family. On this, the World Day of Peace, we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in our day; peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among the nations.