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.
Three girls! A four-year-old who asks me who God is. She has no idea about Him or heaven or even Jesus. So, I tell her as best I can and she accepts my explanation without question. The second is six years old. She knows all about God, believes in Him but has little obvious interest in things religious. She’s a free spirit and possibly has no felt need of God yet.
The third is eight and she clearly knows her need of God, expresses that need. She has already arrived at that state of Beatitude – “Blessed are those who know their need of God.” The poor in spirit (Matthew 5).
Among her needs there is something to do with belonging. She is deeply in love with George Michael and his music and she’s happy that he wasn’t married. If he had been married he would be off limits even for her. But unmarried he somehow can belong to her in an exclusive way.
I think she knows well enough who she belongs to but there is a need for someone who belongs to her, someone who is hers and not anybody else’s.
You see it in people who live alone. They need someone to come home to them, to belong to them in their own place. Someone who, if they leave, will return and will want to return; someone who needs to return. A returning that is born out of belonging rather than out of obligation. But there are many to whom no one returns and no one belongs.
The emptiness created by this becomes a felt need for God, a space into which God can come and make His home. It’s not to say that God only comes to those who have nobody else but the profound state of human aloneness awakens the felt need for God that is actually in every person. It’s a need that remains unnoticed, covered over for a lot of many people’s lives.
Blessed are those who know their need of God and feel that need with every fiber of their being. Recently I met a drug addict and alcoholic who is battling his addictions. He is in a state of utter devastation. And I tell him not to give up hope, no matter how far he falls or how devastated he feels. His life is the place that Jesus comes home to.
This becomes the real stable and manger of Jesus in our time. It is very personal and current. It’s about now.
Jesus is born in us to become the light of God’s face that’s spoken of in the blessing of Aaron in Numbers 6. He is the face, the countenance of God that is lifted up to us within the limitations of our life.
In each of our lives Jesus is subject to the law of human nature, subject to the limitations of each of our lives (Galatians 4:4-7) – the frustrations, the addictions, the incapacities, the infirmities, the struggles with sin, the grief, the most intense of desire and longing. Whatever limitation you experience in your life, Jesus experiences it within you and redeems, delivers you. There will be a defining moment of grace when true liberty is gained.
And he cries within those limitations. Cries like a baby. The pure, unfiltered cry. This is the Spirit of Jesus that cries out Abba Father, the prayer of Jesus that St. Paul talks about. The most authentic prayer that happens when we ourselves do not know how to pray (Romans 8). He takes up the cry that is deep within the heart and soul of each one of us and brings it to the Father.
In the stable of Bethlehem, in the stable of our heart that cry goes through the heart of Mary the Mother. It is she who receives the cry of her Son, interprets that cry, understands what it means, ponders it (Luke 2:16-21), represents it, deals with it. She not only ponders and treasures the events and conditions of that first Christmas in Bethlehem but she ponders the events of your life and mine. Ponders and does something about them if we let her.
He also utters within us the cry of our greatest joys and fulfillment, the ecstatic cry of relief that comes with redemption. This is something only experienced by those who have allowed themselves the beatitude of their need for God at its most intense and demanding level.
New Year’s Day is the feast of Mary the Mother of God. It is world day of Peace in the Church. She is the Mother of Peace. May the year to come be blessed with the Peace she brings to birth in Jesus.
Eamonn Monson sac