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Bulletin: January 1, 2023

Mary, the Holy Mother of God

A Hebrew word that many people are familiar with is shalom, commonly translated into English as “peace.” However, the word is much richer, deeper, and broader than that. As a matter of fact, when the blessing in today’s first reading concludes with shalom, it serves as a summary of the entire blessing: shalom is God’s wholeness, well-being, longevity, harmony, as well as God’s peace. Perhaps Mary prayed this blessing while she found herself in the midst of angels, shepherds, and—quite likely, thanks to the shepherds—inquisitive neighbors who had been told of the wondrous birth. Perhaps she prayed for God’s shalom not only for herself, but also for her child as she reflected on his birth. As we stand at the threshold of a new year, we can likewise pray this blessing, with Mary as our example, pondering the mysteries of Christ in our hearts, praying for the richness, depth, and breadth of God’s shalom.


At some point in time, most people will find themselves needing to watch over another person. This is true for parents and children of course; for others, perhaps an aging parent or spouse; a friend or neighbor living alone after surgery. At these times, along with the caregiving of the moment, there is often a focus on the future, a wondering about what will come. Quite naturally for the new mother Mary there is this future focus, with many possibilities for her to hold in her heart. She reflects quietly in the midst of the very hectic series of events that follow the birth of her child: hurrying shepherds who go and tell the wondrous news to others, then those others sharing their amazement. Luke tells us that Mary keeps all of this, and reflects on it in her heart. Mary is watching over Jesus as mothers do, watching over each and every moment.


As Mary watches over her child, so did Israel pray for God to watch over them and one another, to bless and keep them, as Mary kept and reflected on things in her heart. Mary’s face surely shone upon the infant Jesus, as Israel prayed for God’s face to shine upon them with that graciousness we also know in her whom we call “full of grace.” At the conclusion of the blessing in today’s first reading is a prayer for God to look on us in kindness and, even more, to grant us peace. It may be in this final line of the blessing that we see God most at work in the face and the care of Mary, gazing gently on her child, wishing the fullness of God’s shalom for Jesus and his future. Our mission as disciples is to show the divine care we hear in the blessing prayer, and to live out the care-giving we see today in Mary.

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