“A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR!”
A story is told that at the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers' New Year's resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why weren’t my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher's first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year.
OR, how about this one…A son called his parents to wish them 'A Happy New Year' and when his Dad answered the phone, he asked his dad, "Well Dad, what's your New Year's resolution?" His dad replied,"To make your mother as happy as I can all year," When his mom got on the phone he asked her the same question and she replied, "To see that your dad keeps his New Year's resolution."
Well, we too often make resolutions when the New Year comes. Sometimes we are able to keep them, other times we may be a failure. But that should never discourage us. We all must have "a new beginning for a new year."
Today is 1st January and we stand on the threshold of a "New Year" and a "New Beginning." Here we are in a month named after the Roman god Janus, an appropriate personification of the start of the New Year. The one special thing about the Janus is he is two-faced. He has a face looking to the past and a face looking to the future at the same time. That is why the god Janus became the symbol of New Year’s where, just as we are today, we look at the past and give thanks for that. We look to the future and gather our hopes for that.
So, today as we get rid of an old year and look forward to a new one, we all try to be a little like Janus. This is indeed a time to reflect and think about what the past year that has just ended has brought and what the new year lying right ahead of us could bring. So, the beginning of a new year provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the special gift of time:
We recall the events of the previous year and express our gratitude to God for all the good things that have happened, all the while being aware that there have also been sad and painful experiences and perhaps sinful realities for which we feel sorry, and also the missed opportunities for which we regret. It is a time to reflect, to stop and analyze, to take stock of our priorities, values, pursuits, and goals. Through soul searching questions we find that a review of the past year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the new year.
But most of all we joyfully celebrate the promise of a new set of months with new opportunities and happiness, and we try to be hopeful in spite of uncertainties and unknown threats lying ahead. Today therefore, is a day to pray for God's blessings upon each one of us as we proceed in the new year with fresh resolutions. Yes, it is God's blessing we all need on this first day of the new year.
In the First Reading of today, we have an example of Levitical blessing, which Moses instructs his brother Aron:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!"
This blessing has passed the test of time. Originating with the chosen people, this blessing has been pronounced for three millennia and we can still employ this whenever we want to pray for God's blessing. What a beautiful thing it is to have God's blessing to go forward with "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR!"
The Catholic Church also celebrates "World Day of Peace" on the 1st of January. On this day our Holy Father Pope Francis has asked to pray for the peace in the world and the theme he has chosen for New Year's Day – 2017 is "Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace." His message says that an overemphasis on 'personal well-being' and general indifference have eroded any sense of responsibility toward others.
It is believed that Pope Francis' message will stress the need to combat the 'throwaway culture' and to promote instead a 'culture of encounter,' in order to build a more just and peaceful world. As children of one Father, all human beings are linked to one another in fraternity, and only efforts that are born from a sense of fraternity can overcome the poverty, conflict, inequality, crime, fundamentalism and other ills facing the world today.
Moreover, the culture of personal well-being leads to a loss of the sense of responsibility and fraternal relationship…Not uncommonly, the poor and the needy are regarded as a ‘burden,’ a hindrance to development. At most, they are considered as recipients of aid or compassionate assistance. Everyone needs to be seen as a brother or sister, who is 'called to share the gifts of creation, the goods of progress and culture.' Fraternity is both a gift and a responsibility each human being receives from God the Father, who calls people to fight against 'inequality and poverty that undermine the social fabric, to take care of every person, especially the weakest and most defenseless, to love him or her as oneself with the very heart of Jesus Christ.'
Today, as we also celebrate "World Peace Day," the proposed theme – "Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace," echos in our minds and hearts. We are therefore called to begin the New Year by being a peacemaker. But we must first make peace with our past and the relationships that have been broken through not forgiving, in order to give ourselves "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR!"
The 1st of January is also the culmination of the octave of Christmas when we celebrate the "Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God." Exactly a week back we celebrated with great joy the feast of Christmas, commemorating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary and reflected upon the mystery of the Incarnation, i.e. God taking the form of a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. The life of Jesus begins with Mary. Therefore, it is appropriate that we begin the New Year with a Marian Feast, a feast which celebrates the Holy Mother of God. Since Mary is the Mother of God she is the mother of joy, joy to the world. So the traditional greeting on this first day of the New Year is one of joy: "Happy New Year!"
Today's special feast affirms that the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God and shows the importance of her role in the mystery of our salvation. This Catholic dogma finds its origin from the passage found in the Gospel of Luke. After the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Upon her arrival, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit expressed her joy at the arrival of "the Mother of God."
In 431 A.D, the Council of Ephesus affirmed that Mary was truly the Mother of God because "according to the flesh" she gave birth to Jesus, who was truly God from the first moment of His conception. Twenty years later the Council of Chalcedon re-affirmed that the Motherhood of Mary was a truthful dogma and an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church. Her Motherhood began when the eternal God entered human history. The second Divine Person of the Trinity, the Word, took on a human nature in the womb of Mary.
In the Second Reading, through his letter to Galatians, Saint Paul tells us that we have become God's adopted daughters and sons. Through Jesus' Spirit, we are made God's own children and heirs of all that God has promised. God is "Abba," like a wonderful parent who is absolutely crazy about us. In a special way, Jesus has given us Mary to be our mother, too. So, Mary is not only Jesus' mother, but she is our mother too and she cares for us and for all of God's family with the same love she had for Jesus. So, on this New Year Day, let us turn to Mary, our mother, with all our needs and hopes, confident that she will never fail us and give "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR!"
To conclude, recalling the Gospel Reading of today, it has a special message for us as we hang up the new calendar with mixed feelings. The fresh New Year is in some way like the infant Jesus "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Both the new year and the new child seem so vulnerable but the almighty power of God is hidden in the New Year, just as it is in the tiny infant. God is fully prepared to wrap our fragile lives and hopes in the warm blanket of His ever-present and constant love. With such assurance, we can face the future with generous hope and with light hearts. For we too need to realize that the angels who spoke to the shepherds are speaking to us also when they say, "This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Let us then glorify and praise God, as the shepherds did, for his gift of the New Year and enter into it with our new resolutions giving "A NEW BEGINNING FOR A NEW YEAR!" And this is the Good News of today.