This is Father Peter speaking to you through Deacon Christian. I am sorry that I still cannot speak to you myself. Two days before Christmas, I was taken to hospital in Tórshavn, in order to receive antibiotics intravenously. I went into hospital with an infection in my throat and lungs, and came out on Wednesday with an infection in my leg. My voice is still not strong enough to celebrate Mass with you. Please say a prayer for me.
Yesterday morning, we heard news we had been dreading over Christmas. Pope Benedict died at the age of 95. I was lucky enough to meet him frequently as Cardinal Ratzinger and occasionally as Pope Benedict, too. I admired him as a man of huge intelligence, great spiritual strength and real gentleness. He chose the name of the Pope from the First World War, a Pope who had pleaded and prayed for peace. Saint Benedict is also one of the patrons of Europe. Pope Benedict was fundamentally a very humble man. Listen to what he said to the pilgrims from Germany a few days after he was elected Pope: “Let us walk together, let us be united. I trust in your help. I ask for your understanding if I make mistakes…. I ask for your trust. If we stay united, then we will discover the right path. And let us pray to Mary, Mother of the Lord, so that she will enable us to feel her love as a woman and a mother, in which we can understand all of the depth of Christ’s mystery”.
Pope Benedict really loved the liturgy of the Catholic Church, and he did a lot to help people to celebrate the liturgy worthily. I am sure he would not want us to focus on him in the part of the liturgy when we are supposed to contemplate God’s Holy Word, the Scripture readings we have just heard, especially on the Feast of Mary, the Mother of the Lord.
The first reading today is a famous blessing from the Book of Numbers. It asks us to do something on the first day of the year which we should try to do every day of the New Year – to call down God’s blessing on each other – never to curse each other, but always to bless each other. I think all of us would hope for God’s blessing. This asks us to bless each other.
The second reading reminds us that God “sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and enable us to be adopted as sons”. In other words, God has made it clear that He wanted to adopt us all as His sons and daughters. To put it in simple words, now we are all family, and as such we should look after each other.
In the Gospel, we see a contrast between the shepherds and Mary, the mother of our Lord. The shepherds were full of excitement, and could not wait to tell people about the child in the manger: “they went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”. Mary’s reaction was so different: “she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart”. We see these two reactions together in Luke’s Gospel; that seems to mean that it is good for people to be excited and make a joyous noise about this wonderful event, the birth of our Saviour. But it also tells us how important Mary’s calm reaction is, too.
Fr. Peter Fleetwood, 1 Jan 2023