Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Blessing in Belonging

Readings: Zechariah 2:14-17; (Psalm) Luke 1:46-55; Matthew 12:46-50

Among the pleasant yet humbling duties of a priest is that of blessing. Wherever one goes, it seems people are hungry for a blessing. The reasons for and objects of the blessing sought are various. It may be for a person or persons on a special occasion – a trip or a birthday, surgery or exams – or simply for general well-being. It may be for animate or inanimate objects. But what are we really asking for when we seek a blessing? What really happens when we are blessed?

This memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary presents us with an opportunity to reflect on what might be the deeper meaning of blessings. In the first reading, the people of Judah are asked to sing and to rejoice. They are going to receive a blessing from God. What is this blessing? God will hold Judah as his portion in the Holy Land, and again make Jerusalem his very own. The people are asked to rejoice because they will once again become God’s people, because they will once again belong to God.

Isn’t this also the reason why Mary rejoices in the Magnificat? Not in any merits of her own, but simply because God looks upon his servant in her nothingness. In this Mary is experiencing the very blessing that her parents sought for her when they presented her to God shortly after her birth. God claims Mary as his own, even as he did the people of Judah. And in her openness to being God’s very own possession, to belonging to God alone, Mary becomes the bearer of the Son of the eternal Father.

This same blessing of belonging is also what Jesus extends to all his followers in the gospel. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven… is my brother and sister and mother. Quite an amazing proposition, isn’t it -- that a Christian can actually be Christ’s mother, can actually, as it were, give birth to Christ in the world? But isn’t this awesome thing what we seek, albeit with varying degrees of consciousness, when we ask to be blessed: to be renewed in our sense of belonging to God, to continue to enjoy the protection and grace that such belonging brings, and to continue to bear Christ to the world? Indeed isn't this the grace of our own presentation, our own baptism?

How might we allow this divine blessing of belonging to become more real in our lives today?

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