“The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.”
These are the words God told Moses to tell Aaron the priest to speak to the chosen people, the Israelites. No words of fear, but words of concern and love.
In the Old Testament, many folks like to reflect upon the image of an angry God. Like God was a WWF wrestler. God the Giant! God the Gorilla! The God who seeks vengeance against the Israelites and others for their waywardness and sinful ways. Almost to the point where some hearts will be turned off by some of the ways of God in His reaction to the deplorable acts performed by the lesser half of our humanity. But whenever God is apparently angry at the stupidity of people, along with their hard-heartedness and devilish pride, the more enduring truth and actions of God are found in the words, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.”
In Christianity, we recognize both the miracle of birth and the travesty of death. This is how Christians see the bookends of life. That death creates a hole in our hearts. And that the conception and birth of a child is a gift, a miracle, an event that changes, for the better, the lives of adults. Which is why we defend the gift of human life with such conviction. As our present culture expands its ways of how we can destroy life, from abortion, to euthanasia, to Physician assisted suicide, and whatever else is next in line, Christians defend the divine law regarding life.
Even in the midst of such extreme disregard for the sanctity of God’s greatest gift, from the womb to the sick and the elderly, we are to never lose sight of the more profound reflection upon the generosity of God’s blessings. Where divine anger is present, it is justified in its expression. But the heart of God is moved much more with his blessings and mercy. This is what Mary ponders on our behalf.
Mary is the perfect example of searching and reflecting upon the goodness of God. I would say with all certainty that Mary never reflected upon or thought about the anger of God. Not even once. And she understood the Hebrew Scriptures as well an any religious leader of her time. She knew the story of her nation and people. Mary never lived in fear, like we do today in many ways. Fear of terrorism…they had it back then; fear of not having enough money…the same money that tears families apart today; fear of other people we feel threatened by; fear that is caused by sin…Mary was sinless, thanks to God’s favor upon her.
The Gospel tells us that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” All these things taking place at the manger, she reflected on them, as well as all of her life. Mary’s pondering and reflecting was always on the good things of God. Of what God had done for her; “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” Not with anger, but with favor. With blessings. The Lord bless you and keep you.
If we don’t guard and protect our faith against some of the sinful ways of our culture today, do you see how far away we could be from God’s blessings? From the blessings of God? It’s not our calling to sit in the anger of God. And ponder how God is going to get even with us. This is not where he wants us. God desires we reflect and ponder in the ways of his Blessed Mother; on the good things of God. If we cannot do that, then we have too much worldly clutter in our hearts, keeping us from enjoying the good things of God.
When I reflect upon Mary as the Mother of God, who, along with Joseph, will raise this child the shepherds are arriving to see, I think about someone who knew how to enjoy her many blessings. That she was so focused, and so in tune with the love of God, and the ways of God, that her life, despite her sorrows at the foot of the Cross, was a life of full confidence in the goodness of God her Creator.
Mary offers us so many things to reflect upon in our faith, and they are all positive, upbeat, and joyful. Nowhere does our Blessed Lady give us an opportunity or an inclination to reflect upon the anger of God. That sort of fear doesn’t touch her life. Her entire being, her entire life, ponders the good things of God, which are inexhaustible.
Mary’s pondering sets us up for another year in the world, the same world she dealt with. How can we take on more of her type of pondering, and put aside the types of reflection that establish in our hearts any negative image of God? There’s a lot of folks who live with a negative image of God, which is why we as a culture can create laws that destroy human life so easily and so causally. Laws that reflect the most negative image of God.
If every person held a positive image of God, like Mary, then there would not be one single abortion in our world, nor one Physician assisted suicide. There wouldn’t be a desire or a need for it. This is the holy power held within Mary’s reflection as she sits with her newborn Son in the manger.
Mary’s pondering sets up for us another year in the world. I’m sure you plan on being around for the entire year. May we increase our reflections upon God’s blessings, and cast aside any negative, destructive ways we can think about God, and place all trust in him.
Mary is the model, as she is for every Christian way of life. Take on her goodness and her way of pondering. And it will be the happiest New Year of our lives. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.” That’s the God who was born and died for us.