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.” (Numbers 6:22-27)
What an odd reading to have for the marvelous feast day of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, celebrated on January 1! Shouldn’t we instead hear Isaiah’s prophecy about a virgin conceiving and bearing a son named Immanuel? Or perhaps Zephaniah’s words exhorting “Daughter Zion” to shout and rejoice? Instead, we have Moses teaching the priests how to bless the Israelites. Why?
Perhaps it’s because we see in Mary the person who embodies this life of blessing better than anyone else. Who more than Mary has known what it is like to have the Lord’s face shine upon her and be gracious to her? Who better than Mary knows what it is like to have the Lord look kindly upon her and give her his peace?
But perhaps there is another reason for this passage. Not only is Mary the ultimate recipient of God’s blessings, she reveals what it is like to offer blessings to people. She wanted to bless the newlyweds at Cana. She wanted to bless her cousin Elizabeth. She even sought to bless her son with her presence as he hung on the cross. Never once do we see Mary speaking ill of another person. Never once do we see her “cursing” someone—not even the men who put her son to death!
And so Mary shows us the way to relate to the people around us. God loves it when we speak words of blessing, hope, and encouragement. He rejoices when our words help to create a positive environment where seeds of faith can grow. And the converse is just as true. Harsh words of judgment, cynicism, or even curses can create a toxic atmosphere that makes it hard for people to receive God’s grace and blessing.
So let’s make a conscious effort this year to diminish our negativity. And let’s ask Mary, who is blessed among women, to intercede for us. She is our model, and through her we have all received God’s greatest blessing—Jesus himself! Ask Jesus to open your eyes so that you might see people in need of his grace, that you might be a source of encouragement and hope to those around you. Ask him to help you be one who showers others with his blessings this year.