May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.
This psalm depicts one of my favourite images of God — the depiction of God turning His face to shine upon us. It conjures up in my mind so many happy memories of people I love and how joyful it is to have a loved one turn and smile at me. Receiving the gift of the other’s attention and love feels like receiving the light of the sun coming into my life and lighting up all the dark places. And sometimes, if we’re going through difficulties and then look at the face of a loved one, it can feel like the sun suddenly comes out from behind a cloud.
I believe that Saint Francis also loved this image, as he borrowed the blessing of Aaron from Numbers 6 when he blessed Brother Leo. The blessing reads: “May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His Countenance toward you and give you His Peace!” Twice in this short blessing we pray for God to turn His face towards us and shine on us. And this makes sense, as the way God blesses us is in turning His face towards us. It’s when someone turns their face towards us that we’re able to be in a relationship with them more fully. And when we think about our lives, we find that all of our true blessings come from relationship, with our families and friends, with ourselves, and with God. Whatever other blessings God bestows on us, they come from this first blessing of Him turning His face towards us.
As with all relationships, this turning of God’s face towards us requires a response from us in turn. I can choose to turn my face away, to be ashamed of the dark places inside me where He wants to shine His light. Or, as the psalm says, I can rejoice in God’s presence, in His face and in His justice, and I can find joy in the light of His face, which dispels every fear and darkness.