Bottom line: This is a good day to make a new beginning.
Happy New Year! Feliz Anyo Nuevo! As we talk about discovering life's purpose, New Year's Day is a great moment to make a new beginning, to reset one's course. Boy, do we need a fresh start as individuals and as a society. Fr. Jacques Philippe wrote, "Today we're living through the paradox of a society that, on one hand, is very lax and permissive, and on the other hand, without mercy for those who make mistakes!" As Cardinal George said, "We live in a culture that permits everything and forgives nothing." Why is this happening? Well, we have forgotten God. There's a lot we can say about how our society has gone wrong, but the basic reason is: We have forgotten God.
New Year's Day is a moment to remember God and make a new beginning. This is essential for discovering life's purpose.
In our first reading we have this wonderful blessing: "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!"
By giving that blessing, God calls us to recognize our dignity as children of God. St Paul tells us: "As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'"
In our Gospel we see a touching example of men receiving great dignity and making a new beginning. "The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger." Now, shepherds were rough men. They often had to spend nights outdoors and ward off attacks from wolves and thieves. Some scholars say shepherds were the rednecks of Palestine. (No offense to any rednecks in our congregation and any of you gals who might be married to one.) By amazing grace, these shepherds made a turn in their lives. "Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them."
Now, whether you're a redneck or a realtor, you need a new beginning. That happens through forgiveness: accepting God's forgiveness and forgiving others. Forgiveness does not mean anything goes, but it does offer redemption - no matter what sin a person has committed.
I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness. Part of it relates to my 50 years as a priest and 75 years of life. I've committed many blunders and outright sins - and people have hurt me. Without forgiveness we become paralyzed, we become the walking dead. I've thought about giving a homily series on forgiveness. It would not be about dwelling on the past, but looking to the future.
One way to prepare for the future is by immersing yourself in the Bible. There are lots of great Catholic programs, but I recommend the Bible in a Year. Each day Fr. Mike Schmitz reads consecutive sections of the Bible, says a short prayer and makes some comments. For children this course requires parental guidance because the Bible deals with the whole range of human weakness and sin. But only by facing the depths of human misery can we appreciate the salvation that comes through Jesus. Start today. It's easy to find. Type into a search engine: "Bible in Year, Fr. Mike".
Whatever your age, but especially young people, I encourage you to make a commitment to become a life-long learner. With Word on Fire, Formed and Ascension Press, you can find courses to explore your faith - like Bible in a Year. Become a life-long learner not only in terms of your mind but also your character. Take seriously Jesus call to repentance - daily turning to God.
One area we need to delve is the relation between science and faith. Tomorrow with Feast of the Magi I'll say something about the topic. The perceived conflict between science and religion sometimes derails young people, blinds them to life's purpose. We need to see the limits as well as great blessings of science.
That's for tomorrow. The bottom line for today is that this is a good day to make a new beginning. With the help of Mary, Mother of God and the mercy of her Son Jesus, we can make beginning. Amen.
From Archives (New Years - Mary Mother of God):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru