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What will we bring to the New Year?

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Jan. 4, 2017

On the first day of each New Year, for the last fifty years, popes have delivered a Papal Message for the World Day of Peace.  Pope Francis entitled his 2017 address: “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.”

The Holy Father writes of the piecemeal violence that wreaks such great pain and suffering in the lives of so many around the globe. He cites wars in different lands, terrorism, organized crime, abuses suffered by migrants and the victims of human trafficking, as well as the devastation of the environment. 

We can add to his list the physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse suffered by spouses and children, gang violence, bullying, incendiary language, among others.

We know that Jesus, like us, lived in violent times.  In such an environment, Jesus taught that violence and peace meet in the human heart.  So many folks today are greeting the New Year without peaceful hearts.  Given the current political landscape, some experience great anxiety, uncertainty and even fear of what tomorrow may bring.

At times, polemical statements among some high-profile Church leaders cause further confusion and even fear among many of the faithful.  Where will it all lead?

Increasingly, as faith-filled Catholics seek to obey the Commandments and embrace Church teaching, we are characterized as bigots and intolerant extremists. 

No, many hearts are not at peace.  Troubled, we wonder:  What will the New Year bring?

As the Church celebrates the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on New Year’s Day, we are reminded that our Blessed Lady experienced confusion and fear, too.  When she was greeted by the Angel Gabriel, she heard “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”  “How can this be?” Mary wondered.   Yet, confusion and fear did not cripple her.   “Let it be done unto me according to your word,” was her response to the angel’s message (Luke 1:38).  Mary trusted that God could write straight with crooked lines.  The angel departed but the path marked out for her by God remained.

Can you and I resolve this New Year to offer God the same trusting response as did the Queen of Peace? 

Maybe rather than asking what will the New Year bring us, a better question to ponder is what will we bring to the New Year?  What will our hearts produce?  Will we bring to others the fruits of our own personal encounter with Jesus Christ-- hope, reconciliation and charity?

Will my New Year’s resolutions include works of mercy where I might serve as an instrument of God’s peace and unconditional love, beginning at home within my family? 

Pope Francis writes: “the politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family.”

He cites the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux as one who practiced the little way of love, urging you and me “not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which can sow peace and friendship.”   

Cardinal Walter Kasper writes that peace in the world starts small: in the heart and in thoughts of peace, in the everyday lives of each of us, in families and in workplaces, in neighborhoods, and in many individual human encounters.  From there it streams out into the larger world of politics. 

He writes: “The light emanating from the manger in Bethlehem has lost none of its fascination up to our own day.  God reveals his power and greatness in weakness.  If we confess our faith in this Child as the Prince of Peace, the One whose dominion is without end, then we must change our thinking, renounce violence, and become peacemakers through many small acts of love.” (Accepting the Mystery, 2016).

Each time we make efforts to heal rather than hurt, hearts are softened and we get a taste of God’s peace in our midst.

Our resolve to look for more opportunities, however modest, to be an instrument of peace can be greatly enhanced by committing ourselves to a stronger devotion to Mary this New Year.  Seeking her intercession is a powerful means to strengthen our hope and gain the graces to live with the trust and confidence that characterized the Virgin’s life.  Make 2017 the year to give our hearts to Mary, Queen of Peace!  There is much she can teach us.  With Mary as our model, we will not allow confusion and fear to cripple our witness to Christian hope.

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 and your loved ones His peace!  Blessed New Year everyone! 

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