05 Jan January 1st, 2018-New Year’s Day-Father Shawn Hughes
January 1st, 2018
Father Shawn Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
We have much to celebrate today. Primarily we celebrate this solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title Mother of God. It is also the Octave Day of Christmas. The eight days following the big feasts, Easter and Christmas are celebrated in a similar way to the feast itself. Thirdly, we celebrate the circumcision of Jesus on the 8th day, and thus His submission to the Law. Fourthly, it is the day Jesus was named. The name Jesus literally means He who saves. This is also the 51st World Day of Peace. Starting with Pope Paul VI, all the popes since have issued a special message of Peace on New Year’s Day. And finally we celebrate this as New Year’s, the first day of the upcoming year. Six major themes…a lot to cram into one celebration.
New Year: like a blank slate, start anew.
It’s the time we all make resolutions: Diet, exercise more, yadah, yadah, yadah
We can’t make a resolution unless you look back at the year that has ended and evaluate how it has gone: I would encourage everyone to take an inventory in three areas i) your faith life ii) your relationships in your family and iii) your life at work or at school or if you are retired…other. Ask three simple questions in each category: What was good? And in your prayer give thanks for that. What was not so good and can be done better? In your prayer ask for help in that. The final question is what needs to be removed that is harming you or what needs to be added that would build you up. Like we heard so much in Advent: The mountains brought low…that which needs to be removed from our life and the valleys filled in…that which needs to be added to our life.
A review of last year naturally leads to setting goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.
This weekend’s newspapers are full of individual and collective New Year’s resolutions. Most of those, however, are not resolutions at all but only wishes. The difference? A wish identifies a goal I want to reach, where I want to be: wishes often remain in the realm of thought. A resolution is very practical: it specifies the steps I will take to reach the goal. It says this is the road I will take, AND this is what I will do to get there.
The wishful person says “I want to pass my exams this year” and the resolved person says “I will devote an extra hour to my studies everyday in order to pass my exams.” The wishful person says “I will have more peace and love in my family this year” and the resolved person says “I will spend more time with my family at meals instead of rushing off to the TV or some work or leisure activity…so that we get to know and understand each other better.”
The wishful spiritual person says “I will live a life of union with God this year” and the resolved person says “I will get up 15 minutes earlier and devote those first few minutes of each day to God in prayer.” Or I will sit down by myself, or better yet with my spouse or with my family, at such and such a time, every day and pray part or all of the Rosary or read some Scripture or read some spiritual reading…
The shepherds in today’s Gospel heard the angel’s message and resolved to go into Bethlehem to discover what it meant. They acted.
Our Lady in the Gospel is said to have pondered all these things in her heart. The Latin root of the word ponder literally means to weigh something. She weighed these things in her heart and carried them. She did the necessary review and weighing of what was happening and then made resolutions and acted on them….acted on them right to the foot of the Cross.
In one of his Christmas messages Pope emeritus Benedict XVI urged the world’s Catholics to be beacons of peace. We can’t be beacons of peace unless we have that inner peace.
I think Peace is one thing we all can agree we desire.
The route to inner peace is threefold:
- recognizing in ourselves both our strengths and our faults,
- recognizing that there are some situations or circumstances we can’t do anything about,
- taking control and resolving to actively work on the ones we can do something about.
Inner peace comes from examining our past, coming to peace with it, in letting go of what we can’t change and making resolutions for the future to change the things we can.
I’m a great one for lists. I encourage each of you to take some time this weekend and sit down and prayerfully consider the past year…Make three columns: one for your faith life, one for your family life, and one for your work or school life or if you are retired make a column that says other. 1) Faith life 2) Family life 3) Work/School/Other. Write down what was good, write down what wasn’t, write down what you want to retain, write down what you can’t change, write down what you want to get rid of, write down what you would like to improve on…and then make a list of resolutions beside them of how you will go about improving those areas that need improving and you know you can do something about.
Keep this list around and consult it from time to time over the year to see how you are making out and perhaps tweaking the list here and there as the year goes by. I encourage you to make this very practical spiritual plan for taking our wishes and making