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 6:24-25)
We have heard these beautiful words at the beginning of each New Year, yet we quickly forgot the source of this solemn blessing. The Lord God blesses in a unique, awesome way. All other blessings pale by comparison; they are no blessings at all.
When people bless us, they are wishing something very good for us in the future. When we bless each other, we rely on hope that something good, beyond our resources and power, may happen to those whom we love. In the case of God, the blessing and the realization of the blessing happen at the same time, instantaneously.
Why? It is because God is outside of the confinement of time. He has no past, no future, but just an endless eternal present in which we are chosen, predestined, saved, forgiven, loved, and showered with divine blessings.
In other words, in his endless, enduring present, the Lord God cannot cease to be Love, and to sustain us in his love forever, without end, without any possibility of growing tired, of changing his mind, of getting bored with us, of dumping us for someone more responsive, more docile, more cooperative with his grace.
Today, I humbly take the place of Aaron, the high priest, and I invoke his Name upon you; not because the blessings of God may start now coming your way, but for us all to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts and finally live in the “present tense” of God.
Finally, we may burst into a song of thanksgiving upon the startling realization that we have been showered by divine blessings all along. The shepherds went back to their flocks skipping and dancing, praising, and glorifying the Lord for they had seen in the tender flesh of the divine infant, the Son of God—The ultimate blessing.
The older we get, the faster time flies, the more quickly we get to usher in a new year. There could be many reasons for this odd phenomenon. Let me submit my interpretation: We have overlooked most of God’s blessings.
We have built our own way of getting some fun and joy out of life. We think we know what life is all about. Occasionally, we hope for God to give us a break, a blessing in the future and, thus, we must have overlooked countless blessings thus far because they were outside our agenda or not on our list of expectations.
We might have ignored blessings that were given to bring meaning, joy, purpose, endurance, and patience to our daily life.
Now, some blessings are obvious and too important to miss: 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 children of God. (Galatian 4:4-5)
Of course, if we could appreciate the full extent of this blessing, we would live for six days in expectation of Sunday, to do the Eucharist, to give thanks to God. But Paul mentions also more subtle blessings, like the presence of the Spirit that prays in our hearts and cries “Abba.”
My wish of a Happy New Year, then, must be an invitation to slow down the passing of time by living in the constant awareness that we are blessed by the Lord with an unceasing display of his love. For this to happen we ought to train ourselves to create silence, to move into the desert of our soul, to lock ourselves in our spiritual room where we can heed the gentle inspirations of the Spirit that will direct us to adjust our eyes, to open our minds and to clear our hearts for savoring the blessings of the Father, before we cry “ABBA!”.
We ought to feel like the shepherds: forever surprised by the detailed attention and feverish care of our God. Slowly yet surely, we will see that his care is constant, his blessings unceasing.
In the Magnificat, Mary could claim confidently that all generations will have called her blessed because she had scrupulously and attentively kept all events of her life and had reflected on them in her heart.
If we take to heart the lesson we learn from Mary, not only will we see the number of blessings increase with every moment we can live in the “present tense” of God, but we will soon reach the point in which everything, even the trying times of life, even the moments of anguish and filled with tears, are marked by the unmistakable seal of his love.
How many things that looked frightening or painful last year, can now be seen as meaningful, as opportunities for growth?
This is how we should look forward to 2023. As soon as we catch ourselves slipping into the pain or the guilt of the past, we shall return to the “present tense” of God with an act of faith in his infinite love and mercy.
Whenever we find ourselves in the grip of anguish and apprehension about the future, we shall return to the present of God and in it find security, inner peace, confidence, and lasting joy.