Blessed New Year to you my Dear Sisters and Brothers! The words which I have just quoted are taken from the Book of Numbers, one of the first five Books of the Bible. The words, which we can take as the gift for the coming 365 days of 2017, were the blessing which God the Almighty Father wanted to impart to his people who were still in the desert after leaving the Egyptian slavery. The people were still far away from the Promised Land. In fact most of them would never enter it. But God wanted to bless his people in the most profound and, at the same time, the most intimate way. To do so he chose not Moses who was allowed to speak to the Almighty face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend, but the Almighty chose Aaron. The man, an ordinary man, was to originate the priestly family among the people of God and to perpetuate the experience of God’s closeness and tenderness by blessing the people of God. The Aaron’s blessing, which has been preserved in our Catholic Liturgy too, centres not on prosperity, longevity or lack of trouble but on the privilege which was originally granted only to Moses: to see God face to face. It wasn’t simply human wishing but it was God’s promise. For centuries the descendants of Aaron were blessing their compatriots in this way. For centuries the men and women of Israel treasured, contemplated and longed for the fulfilment of that blessing. The Bible tells us that when Moses was returning to the people after talking to God his face was shining so much that he had to cover it with a veil as the people were frightened to look in his face which reflected the glory of God. They were like people attempting to stare at the sun, it was blinding them. But they still treasured God’s promise to see his countenance. As most of them never entered the Holy Land as all those who heard Aaron blessing them for the first time never saw God’s countenance. Centuries passed until one night some illumination brightened the sky, there weren’t fireworks though, but the glory of God as an angel appeared to the shepherds on the outskirts of Bethlehem. They were as frightened as the people watching Moses’ face were. But the angel as a good evangeliser directed them to the place where a child was born. There the poor shepherds, who didn’t have a good reputation, were the first, after Mary and Joseph of course, to experience the fulfilment of the Aaron’s blessing. God’s face shone on them. God uncovered his face before them. That moment has been immortalised by Christian artists who depicted the Mother of God giving the first benediction, extending her new born Son Jesus Christ before the shepherds like our priests do when they take a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament to bless people.
The first day of January is observed as the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. The Holy Mother of God stands in our midst at the beginning of the New Year journey, even if some of us are not sure whether it is still a NYE party or already a Church service, and she extends to us her arms with the Holy Child, the God who blesses and keeps us; the God who let his face shine on us and who is gracious to us; the God who has uncovered his face and who has brought us peace.
Happy New Year brightened by the countenance of our Saviour Jesus Christ.