A few days ago, as you all know, two famous American women died several hours apart: the beautiful, bouncy, beloved Debbie Reynolds and her actress daughter, Carrie Fisher. Debbie’s son, Todd Fisher, Carrie’s brother, said about his deceased mother, “She’s now with Carrie and we’re all heartbroken.”
I assume he was expressing his belief in life after death: that, as most people of faith would put it, the two women are now “in heaven”. More and more of us today would say simply that they are fully united with God, the Creative Spirit, in some way we cannot even begin to understand and appreciate here on earth.
The theme of the Eucharistic Liturgy today, the first day of the new year, here and throughout the entire world, centers around a Jewish woman by the name of Mary, wife of Joseph, mother of Jesus. Like the two women just mentioned, her life was a mixture of tremendous blessings and crushing burdens. She struggled to learn what the purpose of it all was; it seemed so hopelessly confusing and threatening at times. She never withdrew the yes she had given to the perceived invitation c to be a pivotal part in a drama the likes of which the world had never seen.
One of my seminary professors, more than 50 years ago, defined the word blessing in such a way that I have never forgot it. He said that a blessing is essentially a command from God that a person or a thing be everything it was created to be — in other words, achieve its natural destiny. How literally that definition is to be taken, I’m not sure; but I have ever since thought it contains and expresses a great truth. It has enabled me to be a blesser, to say words I believe are consistent with the mind and intention of Jesus and to say them without embarrassment at the thought that I may be perceived as a witch doctor or a self-deluded magician.
And so, I have blessed countless infants, children, brides & grooms, pets, cars, homes, sick and dying persons, motorcycles and surf boards and so on. And I have come to think of Mary in that category: that she herself is a blessing to us all, helping us by her example and loving presence to be all that we were created to be.
That was her greatness, her nobility, her unshakable faith. She never withdrew her acceptance of a blessing that appeared so often to be a curse. She continued to believe that everything she interpreted as promise would come to pass in due time through the power and love of God.
It’s no wonder that Christians have enormous affection for this beautiful woman. She is a blessing to us all. Both in her heroically faithful life here on earth and in the happiness she shares now with her son in the life beyond death, she is an incomparable model — and blessing — for each of us.
On this first day of the year 2017 we honor and thank her, Mary, Mother of Jesus, our sister, our mother, our friend.