Today is a day when we pray not just for personal peace , but for Peace in the World between Nations and various factions. In Pope Benedict’s message to the world today he writes:
- “Peace is principally the attainment of the common good in society… Precisely for this reason it can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.
- Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. Our gaze needs to go deeper, beneath superficial appearances and phenomena, to discern a positive reality which exists in human hearts, since every man and woman has been created in the image of God and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world.
- The peacemaker, according to Jesus’ beatitude, is the one who seeks the good of the other, the fullness of good in body and soul, today and tomorrow.
- There is a need, then, to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will rather than mere tolerance. A fundamental encouragement to this is “to say no to revenge, to recognize injustices, to accept apologies without looking for them, and finally, to forgive”, in such a way that mistakes and offences can be acknowledged in truth, so as to move forward together towards reconciliation. .. Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father who loves all his children (cf. Mt 5:21-48).
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 for all the good things that have happened, all the while being aware that there have also been sad and painful and perhaps sinful realities. By saying “no” to revenge, by forgiveness and seeking forgiveness, we become peacemakers. We celebrate the promise of a new set of months and we try to be hopeful in spite of threats of war and recession and just growing older.
Today's gospel has a special message for us as we hang up the new calendar. Fr. Demetrius Dumm, a Benedictine, makes an analogy: “The fresh New Year is in some ways 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." Come, let us adore him.”
Today as we begin a new year, we also honor Mary as the Mother of God. The mother of the new! The mother of the promise! What a perfect time to take up her prayerful, thoughtful way of life! New Year’s Day is often a quiet day of transition from the holiday season into a new year. Take advantage of the calm to do some quiet reflection. See if you can detect God’s presence, in the good times and the challenging times. Recognize his grace in the big and small areas of your life. Then, more deeply aware of his tender care, you can begin this year with a new level of faith and a deeper readiness to trust in the Lord.
The Gospel speaks of being blessed by God. Mary felt deep gratitude for her experience at Bethlehem. God blessed her with a healthy son. Visitors were in awe of her child. Angels glorified God at his birth. For the Gospel writer, Mary symbolizes the model disciple: Throughout her life she listened attentively to God’s Word. She cherished it and reflected on its meaning. Her prominent place in the Gospel story leads us to believe that the Church, from its earliest days, recognized how Mary, having given her consent to bear the Word Made Flesh, continued to glorify God in all she did.
Mary treasured the blessings and pondered them in her heart. This blessing for Mary would be her strength during the difficult events of the future.
In the first liturgical reading for New Year’s Day God tells Moses to share a beautiful blessing with the Israelites. Moses is to say the them: “The Lord bless and keep you, make his face shine upon you, be gracious to you, and give you peace”. These are marvelous words that we could speak to our friends and loved ones on this January first.
Let us ponder the blessings of our past year and to praise God for the treasures which are ours. These blessings can be our strength in the new year.
God of the seasons, Lover of the ages, Master of every moment:
You who are beyond time yet within all time.
We return to you what you have given to us —
the moments, the minutes, the hours, the days,
the weeks, the months, and the year of 2012.
Time has been gracious to us again,
and we thank you for freely giving us these human bodies,
these events, and these relationships.
We have lived another year and we have died another year,
and now you are granting us the beginnings of another.
We now hand over to you the blessed year, 2012,
with all that it gave us and all that it took from us,
knowing that both are necessary, just like our breath.
We trust you in both the givings and the takings,
the inhalings and the exhalings.
May every breath of 2013 be a breath of the Holy Spirit,
joyfully received and joyfully returned,
beginning with this one right now. Amen.
(Adapted from Richard Rohr Meditations)
“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!”
Mary, Mother of Jesus,
teach us how to ponder our treasures,
how to draw strength from our blessings,
as we journey into this new year.