Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
“The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Nm. 6:25-26)
In today’s first reading, we hear Moses pray that God may gaze upon each one of His people in a personal way. For ancient Israelites, who were used to praying, sacrificing, and relating to God as an entire nation, this must have been a startlingly bold petition. When the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Now, as he blesses the Israelite people according to God’s command, he asks that every one of them may come to lock eyes with Him, beholding the perfect glory and majesty that was once too much for Moses.
For the shepherds in today’s Gospel, this prayer is answered centuries after the fact. As they try to get through another night of work while everyone else sleeps (certainly a relatable situation for college students), angels suddenly appear and announce that the God of Israel is in a manger in Bethlehem. When they run to the scene and find the child in Mary’s arms, they come to gaze upon the same LORD who once spoke to Moses, and He looks back at them through the eyes of a newborn baby.
In prayer, the very same opportunity is made available to each of us. At its heart, prayer is nothing more than letting God look upon us with love and doing our best to return His gaze. It’s really not any more complicated than that! After all, Mary and the shepherds simply returned His gaze. We can pray to have our own wishes met, or to make the world a better place, or to become better people, and those are all good and worthwhile effects. However, what really takes place when we pray is a face-to-face encounter with a personal God, and it is through a simple participation in this encounter that our lives are transformed. As God’s face shines on each of us, let’s run to meet Him in prayer with the responding gaze of Mary and the simplicity and zeal of a shepherd.