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It is appropriate that we begin the New Year with a reading from the Book of Numbers. Numbers is the second to last book in the Pentateuch. The book begins with a census of all the names of anyone over twenty years old who were living in the desert after God delivered them from Egypt. After forty years, all the people on the census die because of war, poisonous snakes, and desert conditions. The death of this generation is due to sin and disobedience to God. After forty years, there is another census. Because everyone died, no one on the first census is on the new list except Joshua and Caleb. There is an amazing difference between the two censuses. The first census has the names of all those who died in the desert. In the second census, no one dies in the desert. Even during a battle with the Midianites, no Israelite soldier is killed. This is a new generation that will enjoy a promised land and no death. It is in this context that we are to understand Aaron’s blessing; we understand what “blessing” really means:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
They shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
When Mary gives birth to Jesus, a new generation is born. Shepherds rejoice because it is a blessing. A blessing means no one dies because of sin. The two censuses in the Book of Numbers recalls what God does when He blesses. And God breaks sin and brings forth a new generation with the birth of a firstborn. That is why we can call Jesus the Savior of the World.Back to All Homilies