Happy New Year! This week I would like to share my reflections on the new year as contained in the homily I delivered on New Year’s Eve at Sacred Heart Basilica and on New Year’s Day at the Cathedral:
My brothers and sisters, at the start of a new year, Mary, a key player in the infancy narratives of Luke’s gospel, stands at the center of our liturgy. Today’s gospel presents her as a reflective person as she takes to heart the plan of God that is unfolding before her eyes.
I can’t speak for you, but I know in my own case that prayerful reflection should be more a part of my life than it is. Unfortunately, in our fast pace lifestyle, prayer time is often not a high priority. So many things seem to restrict us, whether at home or at work. Distractions seem ever present – the task at hand, concern for children or a sick or elderly family member, the routine shopping or errands that cannot be put off.
Truthfully, sisters and brothers, it is not easy to find quality time to reflect on our life and simply to pray. But it is indispensable if we do not want to find ourselves running on empty. In such instances, we can often feel that we are just spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. A story is told of a doctor who was constantly distraught by the daily traffic snarls in his commute until he decided to pray the Rosary. He recited it daily on his way to work for years after that and found it a great help. I can vouch for this practice and the help it brings because I often pray the Rosary when traversing this diocese or on my way back to the North Country.
It seems also that a woman decided to forego some of her daily surfing of the internet (along with her TV watching) in the interest of spiritual reading and ended up discovering real guidance for her life when she lifted her heart and life up to the Lord. Again, I am reminded of a cross stitch I once was given that stated: “A day hemmed in prayer seldom unravels.” As I reflect on my own personal experience of this saying, I recognize the fruitfulness of days that are hemmed in prayer and those days where I seem to sink into the mire of life because I have let go of God’s hand.
The blessing of Aaron in our first reading today speaks of God turning his face to his people. The same metaphor applies to life here and now. When people are upset with us, they are said to have turned their back on us. “Engagement,” on the other hand, means to turn our face toward someone in a kindly spirit. In the mystery of the Incarnation, the kindness of our God has come alive and come face to face with us through the face of the one named, “Jesus.”
Brothers and sisters, a major concern in the present age is with the human face of the Church. Does it really show forth the face of Christ to a world struggling to know God? Scandal has tarnished badly the image of the Church itself in today’s world. So many in the current moment want to disassociate themselves from the Church because of its seeming failure to be the Body of Christ!
There is added disappointment with leaders, both religious and political, in a country strongly divided along ideological lines. In the face of the continual “spin”, people find it increasingly difficult to know what to believe. Consequently, it is prayer and reflection, like that exemplified in Mary, which serves us so well. Through it, people still come to cherish the gift of faith.
In it also, they come to discover the true heart and head of the Church, Jesus Christ, who touches us in word and in sacrament. It is in him that we are nourished and encouraged. Ultimately it is in Christ we stand. And when we cross the valley of the shadow of death to our true home in heaven, whether in the year to come or sometime down the road, it is Christ who will bring us home!
And so, a prayer we can use to start this New Year is: “Jesus, I want to start this year by seeing your hand at work in my life. Open my eyes, Lord, just as you did for Mary! Help me like her to be still and to know God’s presence in my life each day of 2022. Amen.”
New Year Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
—Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (USCCB)