1 January 2018, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
●● Numbers 6:22-27 ●● Psalm 67 ●● Galatians 4:4-7 ●● + Luke 2:16-21 ●●
Title: Peace and Presence
[_01_] We read from the Book of Numbers this blessing:
“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!” (Numbers 6:24-26)
A blessing of peace.
What is the definition of peace?
Peace could be the absence of conflict.
Peace – however – is not really an ABSENCE or a LACK ..but a PRESENCE.
It is the presence of Christ whom we celebrate.
And, it is our own presence in and through Christ according to his word.
Peace is a presence.
Practically, PEACE could be the PRESENCE of this hymnal – with the reading from Numbers -- (my own – right here) so that I did not have to memorize all of Numbers 6:24-26.
On a practical level – at Port Authority or Penn Station – we have peace when we have information. If we know, for example, our train or bus is late, we are more peaceful / tranquil if we know how late or for what reason.
[_02_] However, Jesus wishes to raise the bar – raise the standard for us – to remind us that peace is something we can have as a stable, permanent gift in our lives. And that peace is not simply the absence of conflict or the status quo. Peace can exist even with change and conflict.
In the Beatitudes, our Lord teaches – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:__)
We are called to make peace, not simply to keep peace.
[_03_] And, I’d like to make this connection between the works of mercy and peace. That is, being present– and living – the works of mercy bring peace.
Materially, we see this in the charitable giving. Feeding the hungry, we make peace. Visiting the sick, we make peace. Giving to someone in need, we make peace physically, materially. This is our “present” and “presence” and “gift.”
[_04_] In a spiritual sense, we are also called to be peacemakers.
The spiritual works of mercy call us to give and to receive wisdom and knowledge.
Isn’t it true, in a fundamental way, that we promote peace by sharing knowledge.
On an interpersonal level, the same is true. We promote peace when we disclose and share ourselves with others. That is we are present to the other. This does not mean we have to share every detail of our background, but that we share and instruct others with some generosity.
We do this very naturally and easily in the early stages of a relationship, especially in a falling-in-love type of relationship. We tell the other person about ourselves and this promotes peace and reassurance. And, we want to be present to the other. Whatever faults or failings there are between 2 people are compensated by their desire to be present – and to know – the other.
Sometimes, however, as time goes on we assume there is nothing more to learn or we become indifferent and it is much more difficult to resolve conflicts. We are less “present”.
We may even think it is normal to live in a state of quasi-armed resistance against certain people – even loved ones.
Another practical example – or the contrary case. A friend of mine told me how he used to work – early in his career – and how this caused frustration. In fact, he was not fully present.
In fact, he came to work every day, worked diligently, but he generally did not keep his boss well informed about his progress.
When he would go to meet his boss, he would not make it easy for the boss to gain information.
So, his boss said to him frequently at meetings– you know, working with you is like playing “Where’s Waldo?” You remember “Where’s Waldo?”
“The objective of each Where's Waldo? book is simple enough: comb through the crowds of people to find Waldo, who's always decked out in his trademark red and white striped sweater and glasses.”
And, rather than this young man telling his boss straight-up what was happening, he forced his boss to “find” Waldo or fish for the information.
Sometimes, we play Where’s Waldo? by our partial presence to each other.
[_05_] Consider the example of our Blessed Mother on this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Certainly, she has much joy, but also much to be concerned about. So much is unsettled and uncertain.
Yet, amid this , she is able to be present to her son, to her husband …and even to the visiting shepherds whom she does not really know.
Mary – in her conversation with the angel at the Annunciation even found herself in some conflict.
“How can this be…?”
[_07_] In other words, Mary – and later Jesus -- gives us an example of PEACEMAKING in the middle of conflict.
Mary gives us an example of the simple question which is sometimes the hardest one to formulate.
Simplicity – in our dialogue and conversation and question - followed by silence helps to promote peace.
So, that we can be a blessing of peace, so that we can go in peace.