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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Jan. 1, 2012

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

January 1, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Cycle B Readings:

1) Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8

2) Galatians 4:4-7

Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

It's not uncommon for females, especially high-profile celebrities (or teenage daughters!), to avoid appearing in public unless they have their makeup on. They are accustomed to presenting a certain face to the world, and they feel less confident when that face is not looking its best. (I have to agree that a little mascara and lipstick go a long way.) Indeed, only a very few trusted individuals are allowed to see these women's "real," unadorned faces in private.

In the Scriptures, the "face of God" is synonymous with God's glorious presence in all its beauty and fullness. That glory was so incredibly overpowering that no one could see God's face and live; yet a privileged few -- including Jacob, Moses and Isaiah -- were allowed to encounter God "face to face" in a limited way, as it were, through dreams, visions or partial glimpses.

Even so, the people of God have always been encouraged to "seek the face of the Lord," which simply means to ardently desire to be in God's presence.

Today's readings are an earnest prayer for God's face to shine upon us, replete with God's blessings of kindness, mercy and peace. The way that God has chosen to reveal his "face" to the world is through his son, Jesus, "born of a woman" named Mary.

For Catholics, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, affirms and celebrates two ancient Christian truths: that Jesus, fully human and fully divine, is the "face" of God in all its glory, presented to the world; and that as Jesus' mother, Mary can truly be called "Mother of God."

Seen in this way, the Gospel account of the shepherds' visit to the infant Jesus is not simply a sweet story. It communicates a profoundly joyful and hopeful truth: God's face is no longer hidden from our view. Regardless of earthly privilege or lack of it, no one is prevented from "seeing" God, for in Jesus, God's presence shines on all who seek it. And Mary, who continues to "reflect on these things" in her heart, is the exemplar for those who continually seek God's face.


How earnestly do you "seek the face" of God? How can Mary, the Mother of God, help you to more fully enter into God's presence?


"May God ... let his face shine upon us" (Psalm 67:2).


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