BY FATHER TIM JOHNSON - ST. JOSEPH CATHOLIC CHURCH
For the past few years I have retreated to bed on New Year's Eve well before the ball came down; and that is 11 p.m. our time! (No excuses even though I’m reaching that Social Security age.)
It's easy to treat the beginning of a New Year as just another day, in the mix with all the other days amidst work and personal responsibilities, the inconvenience of winter weather, heartbreaking news, continued squabbles and confrontations between our elected officials, and the health struggles of family and friends.
Concerns can be distracting at the very least and overwhelming if encountered all at once. Possibly, "early to bed and early to rise" would be the most appropriate attitude to get through a day and ready oneself for another. Sometimes such may be enough, giving us the strength to maintain our character and Christian values through the challenges — near and far — before and within our lives.
Though God is not confined to our reality of time, the beginning of a New Year should be a breath of fresh air, an opportunity to see the gift of life and worldly circumstances in a different light, a beginning of our life at a certain juncture we will not pass again. Acknowledging the tradition of New Year's resolutions to direct our efforts in a more positive manner, our Christian faith can be the guide to that "something more" — effecting our life and those around us, more graciously and sincerely.
Stepping into this New Year with the simple, manageable, inspiring embrace of Paul's words in Colossians, chapter three: "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another … and forgive each other. … Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . … And be thankful." No need for further details, instructions or articulation. We have to remember Paul's concern for a community of Christians who were essentially swayed by the attractions and distractions within their culture at the time, reflecting possibly the challenges within our present culture.
Oh sure, we can extrapolate about the meaning and application of each virtue in our lives, and where God may be leading us. However, with the guidance of Jesus' example, our attempts to apply Paul's instructions into our daily lives and relationships are not only "manageable" but a gift to us, to others, and within our relationship with God. Simple, straightforward and a reassuring step into the possibilities of this new and unique year.
God knows our humanity — follies and abilities — far more than we ourselves understand, so let us not be frustrated or blinded by perfection. Of all the possibilities this New Year can unleash may our dreams be tethered to Paul's exhortation: kindness, gentleness, humility, compassion, patience bound together with forgiveness and gratitude. Such a dream looking forward — tethered to Paul's words — is at the heart of our faith. As the poet Langston Hughes wrote:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Whether we "hung in there" or fell asleep before the ball came down this New Year, may we not be complacent about the possibilities this one unique year in our life can offer. Unbounded by the space of time it is our God who provides this New Year as a gift and a hope within our personal lives and those of others. May we take a risk, guided by our Christian faith, to usher in a new spirit of peace as we begin this New Year; and too, acknowledging that at any given moment we may encounter the grace of God in a new and profound way. I leave you with this thoughtful poem by David Budbill.
Winter: Tonight: Sunset
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first
through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop
and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.
I pause in this moment at the beginning of my age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening
a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
Blessings upon your New Year, and inspired by the late Dick Clark, I will watch that ball come down.