Jesus’ life begins with Mary. It is only fitting therefore that we begin our new year with this solemn feast of Mary, the Mother of God. I am sure we all begin the new year with hopes and prayers. There’s a wonderful prayer given us by Dag Hammerskjoeld. He was the UN Secretary General in the 1950’s. He always began his new year with this prayer: For all that has been – thanks! To all that shall be – yes! There’s also a prayer from all the churches in Great Britain – Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant. It was composed to greet the new millennium and is now used to greet the new year. Our British brothers and sisters pray this prayer: Let there be / respect for the earth / peace for its people / love in our lives / delight in the good / forgiveness for past wrongs / and from now on / a new start.
I’ve developed my own New Year custom that I’d like to share with you. I read a reflection from a fellow Jesuit. His name is Father Rodney Kissinger and he lives in New Orleans. He maintains a blog called Seasoned Spirituality which I would recommend to you. It contains lots of reflections on Jesuit spirituality. But there’s something else you should know. Rodney is ninety-six years old. He entered the Jesuits in 1942. That’s the year I was born! For the last seventy years he has worked in the area of retreats and spiritual direction in Texas, Missouri and Louisiana. Presently he lives in a Jesuit community in New Orleans while working as a chaplain to a retirement community of religious sisters.
So you can appreciate that Rodney comes with a heap of experience and a lot of wisdom too. That’s why I’d like to share with you something of his wisdom, as we begin the new year. Please listen carefully to this Jesuit’s reflection.
There is only one love – God’s own love. We are not creators, we are only receivers and transmitters of God’s own love. We simply accept this love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. We let this love permeate our being, radiate from us and overflow to others. This love of God working on us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
And now I ask that we reflect on what Rodney is saying. What if what he says is true? What if the actual love we find in our hearts is God’s own love – God’s own love really present and at work in us? What would that say to us about who we are? And what would that say about all the people whose love for us we know for sure? If what Rodney says is true, then those feelings we feel within us and sense in others – they are God’s own feelings. They are God’s real presence in us and among us.
How then should we live our lives? That’s always a good question for us to ask, especially as we begin the new year. And Rodney has something to say to us, especially as we come to recognize there is only one love – God’s own love – which is already in us. This is what he says.
Whether we live a long life or a short one, whether we are sickly or healthy, whether we are rich or poor, learned or uneducated, whether we accomplish much or little in this world, is only incidental. What is important is that I make the love of God visible in me, that I give the love of God credibility so that others may believe, hope and love – and be happy to be themselves.
How then are we to live in the coming year? First of all, we are not to sweat the incidentals of life. Jesus tells us not to worry about what we are to wear or to eat. Rather than worrying, we are to focus on what is absolutely certain and important: making God’s own love visible in us – making God’s own love touchable through us.
We are to say Yes! Yes! - to the love we find already present in our hearts. Not to be afraid of where that love will take us. If we follow love’s lead – which is God’s own lead – then we will be happy to be ourselves. And then – blessing of all blessings – we will help others be happy to be themselves!
What a year awaits us! Have a Happy New Year!
Fr. Pat Earl, SJ