World Day of Prayer
First reading: Nm. 6:22–27
The LORD said to Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Second reading: Gal. 4:4–7
Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.
Gospel: Lk. 2:16–21
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
In other words
Fr. Randy Flores, SVD (Sacred Heart Parish Shrine, Kamuning, Quezon City)
“Gratitude” was the keyword of my homily on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2021. I wanted to thank everyone who kept the church alive and kicking during the pandemic. I even recalled our experience of having to celebrate masses without a congregation, preaching to empty pews. My homily was sort of a declaration that the pandemic was about to end. Barangays Kamuning and Sacred Heart, two of the big barangays under our parish, were COVID-free.
But I counted my chickens before they hatched. A few days after January 1, 2022, we canceled our public masses and again reverted to online services. It was even a big feast on that Sunday (Hesus Nazareno and Baptism of the Lord). The day before, more than 20,000 people, mainly in Metro Manila, were tested positive with COVID-19, no thanks to the omicron variant. When you read this reflection, I wonder what situation we will have today, January 1, 2023.
It would probably be difficult for me again to thank too early. Yet, at the start of this year and every start of the year, our spirit must be one of gratitude, if I may suggest, and not of fortune-telling. “Count your blessings, instead of sheep,” says a popular song.
The oldest blessing in the Bible, perhaps in antiquity, is found in the Book of Numbers (First Reading, read every January 1st). It is often called the Priestly or Aaronic Blessing. Aaron, Moses’ brother and a priest, is to pronounce the blessing to the Israelites. A striking line is the blessing that “the Lord let his face shine upon you.” In times of distress and suffering, God is believed to have hidden his face, a way of saying that God abandoned his people (as in Deut. 31:18). God’s face shining on the person is a blessing then of God’s presence in one’s life, especially in times of trouble.
The blessing became fully realized when Jesus, the true face of God, was ultimately revealed to the world. Paul calls this “the fullness of time” (Second Reading), meaning the time determined by God to send his Son to the world. The Son was “born of a woman” (the Son of Mary) and “under the law” (a Jew). Here, we have the earliest biblical reference to Mary as the mother of God, the solemnity that we celebrate every first day of the year.
In Jesus, the significant effect of this blessing is that we became adopted children of God who can now dare to intimately communicate with God, even calling him “Itay,” “Tatang,” or “Dad” (Abba in Aramaic).