As 2022 fades in our rearview mirror, let us take time to reflect on our experiences in 2022. Mary herself gives us a model of counting blessings – Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. What are you most proud of? What are you sorry for? How did you encounter the Lord anew?
How did you allow yourself to be changed --- for better or worse? Who are the people around you who are life giving to you, who affirm and support you?
In 431 A.D., the ecumenical Council of Ephesus convened and concluded that since Jesus is but one Divine person, it is perfectly correct to name Mary the “Mother of God.” So every new year begins celebrating this feast in honor of Mary. The title “Mother of God” does not imply that Mary herself is divine. It does mean that she is most worthy of our love, our gratitude and confidence in intercession.
Today is also World Day of Peace. Pope Francis in his Christmas message noted we are experiencing a grave famine of peace --- violence in Ukraine, Syria, between Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, the region of Sahel, Yemen, Myanmar, Iran, and Haiti. In his prayer for today Pope Francis prays. “Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: "Never again war!"; "With war everything is lost". Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.”
The start of a new calendar year, for many is a time to readjust life --- lose weight, pray more, de-clutter one’s life, stick to an exercise plan, spend more time on relationships. One thought that has stayed with me, comes from the question Jesus posed to the crowds in the Gospel of Matthew on Gaudete Sunday, “then what did you go out to see?” Sr. Joyce Rupp, reflecting on this gospel verse writes, “What do we “go out to see? Where is the eye of our heart? Is it limited or expansive? What do we hope to see in one another? I’ve discovered for myself that when I look for the hidden good in another, I’m rarely disappointed. Likewise, when I think I’ll see the worst in someone, I usually find it.
She offers a great insight, how we look at the world around us impacts our own attitudes and behaviors. Let me offer that for the new year, each of us look for the hidden good in the other. There will always be disagreements, different ways to resolve issues. Perhaps recognizing the good in another will lead to more civil debates.
At the heart of seeing the hidden good in the other, is placing God at the center of our lives. When we place something other than God at the center of our lives, our lives end up being unfulfilled and we become frustrated. Notice the blessing God gives to Moses in Exodus, to use over the people---- May God bless and keep you, let his face shine upon you, and give you peace. The blessing does not mention material wealth or good times but rather a constant presence of God.
Throughout 2023 may you feel the presence of God around you, especially in those you meet along the way.
Peace, Fr. Ron
P.S. Thank you for the Christmas cards and gifts. I appreciate the kindness and thoughtfulness.