Happy New Year: Can We Really Begin Again? The Answer is Yes, Through Jesus
the whole world is the only One who can make all things new!
Every New Year we read numerous articles about the efficacy of New Year's Resolutions. However, the fact remains, we all make them. The experience is nearly universal. The question is why? I suggest that they reveal something of our universal longing. So too do our calendars. Some Nations use different calendars, but the passing of one year to another is marked by a deliberate period of reflection over the past year and a pledge to begin anew, to change, in the year to come. This is because we all hunger to be made new!
GK Chesterton wrote: "The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
We all want to change, to be better, to live our lives more fully and love one another more selflessly. As we end one year and look to a new one, we pause and take inventory. In a rare moment of near universal reflection and honest self assessment, we admit our failures. We pledge to learn from them and move toward a better future. In Little Gidding written by T.S. Eliott we find these often quoted words: "For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning."
Over the years I have realized that every end really can become a beginning, for the man or woman who has faith in the God who invites us to begin again, again and again. He alone makes it possible by sharing His very Life with us. This gift is called grace and through receiving it we become what the Apostle Peter called "Partakers of the Divine Nature".(2 Peter 1:4)
Millions will utter these words, or similar ones, this New Years Eve and Day, "I firmly resolve." Lists will be compiled - and promises made - to oneself, to others and to God. Sadly, many will not be kept. These words attributed to Mark Twain too often ring true "New Year's Day - now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."
When I was a young man, I would write my New Years goal list before a period of protracted prayer. I use to make the list and then, in a fit of self generated enthusiasm, ask the Lord to bless it! I know better now. I need the light of the Holy Spirit to even comprehend what is needed if I ever hope to change. I pray first and then, my list has become so simple. Mary's Fiat has become my prayer, "be it done unto me according to your word."
I am ever grateful for the opportunity to attend Holy Mass on New Year's Day and celebrate the great Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. She is the first disciple, the prototype, the symbol of the whole Church. We who are members of the Church are invited to emulate her "Yes" to the invitation of God and make it our own. We are to make a place for Him within us and become bearers of Christ to the world.
There at Holy Mass, at the Altar of Sacrifice where heaven meets earth, if we listen with our spiritual ears, we can hear the Angels sing. We hear the living Word of God proclaimed, equipping us with wisdom from above to help inform our lives below. We approach the Altar of Calvary and receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the source of all grace. Without grace we simply cannot keep these New Year's resolutions. But with grace - which is a participation in the very life of God - we really can.
I awakened this morning with a prayer in my heart. It is one which Roman Catholics over fifty years old recall well,called "An Act of Contrition". The older form begins with these words, "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen."
The prayer has gone through several revisions, maintaining the necessary elements of honest confession, repentance and resolution reliant upon grace. The preliminary line strikes me as significant for our New Year's Celebration, "I firmly resolve."
However, it is incomplete without the words which follow "with the help of Thy grace". That second part, "with the help of Thy Grace" holds the key to answering the question of whether New Year's Resolutions can work or whether the New years refelction will bear fruit. Yes, if they are inspired by the Holy Spirit and aided by God's grace.
I pray that in the Year of Our Lord, 2012, we may all find the fullness of grace which comes through a living relationship with the One who makes all things new (Rev 21), Jesus Christ. There is a universal longing in every human heart to be made new, to begin again, because the Holy Spirit prompts it in every human heart.
In and through Jesus Christ, there is also a way to be made new. That is the heart of the Gospel, the Good News! We truly can! St. Paul reminded the Christians in the City of Corinth - and reminds every one of us "whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Cor. 5:17)
New Years Eve is a great existential moment, ripe with expectations. It invites a spiritually cathartic time of reflection, offers hope for change and invites us to make choices. In reality, our choices will make us. Let us choose in the year 2012 to live our lives in Jesus Christ and find the way to turn resolutions into reality. Happy New Year!
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: New Year, New Evangelization, repentance, conversion, confession, evangelization, Passion of the Christ, 2012, New years Eve, Deacon Keith Fournier
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