Convention has long established that the close of the calendar year and the arrival of the new is celebrated by means of social gatherings and, on a personal level, the formulation of “new year's resolutions”. Our propensity for resolutions and our own human weakness in failing to adhere to them, are so widely known to have become the source and subject of much social satire.
For Christians, the New Year recorded by the Gregorian calendar might present itself as an occasion for deeper reflection, reconsideration, and not a little regret. For those in the priesthood or religious life, the arrival of the "New Year" might prompt the taking of stock. A form of pastoral inventory of those occasions in which aspirations and objectives, projects, activities and works, of the preceding year have borne fruit or found fulfilment. As such, it may serve as a an occasion of humility; leading to the acknowledgement of those instances when their own ideas ambition's aims and efforts did not produce the desired outcome or, worse still, obscured from view the blessing which the Lord wished to bestow upon them, or through them. Thoughts such as these, whilst understandable, are themselves a s subtle form of self-deception. Whilst suggestive of weakness and failure in action such ponderings suggest a mindset inappropriate for any Christian; especially those who are priests or religious. Why? This way of thinking proceeds from the vantage point, and unit of measurement, of personal effort and attainment. This is the currency of the secular mind. By contrast, we are, each one of us, called to be "fools" for Christ. This requires is to shun the affirmations of the world and to seek out what is of value to Him alone.
It is undoubtedly the case that in listening to what He requires of us, we are at risk of drowning out His invitation, or, of placing ourselves physically, emotionally or even geographically in environments which render it impossible to hear Him at all. But subscription to the currency of worldly success may serve only to close the mind and the heart to His bidding and, as such, serve as a recipe for for future disillusionment or worse. As such, aspiration for "success" is unlikely to prove a wholesome ingredient in the formulation a new year resolution. One can be confident that there has been more than one priest or religious who has wasted his hours pining at the windows of Gammarelli's!
New Year resolutions depend not in hope in the future alone. This is nothing more than optimism; an optimisim which may well be ill-founded. Witness the familiar scenario in which the subscription to the gym is paid, but the journey never made. Rather, any viable resolution must be founded in a confidence which is the product of faith in the present.
In the Christian journey, our capacity to heed and follow the prompts of vocation depends upon faith. Not faith in ourselves, but in Him. Not in dependence upon our own abilities, but His. Not in our strength, but in the full knowledge of our weakness. These are the foundations of faith which not only pave our way but must determine our entry into the year ahead.
Given these Truths, perhaps we might encourage one another to greet the arrival of the new calendar year, not with secular modes of celebration, but instead in silence. There are, of course, different forms of silence. There is the silence which denotes complicity or acquiescence in the presence of wrongdoing. There is the silence of those who lack the courage to speak out against injustice. By contrast, there is also the silence of waiting upon another. It is this silence of waiting which calls for patience and endurance. It requires us to lose many distractions; most especially our present-day obsession with activity. Most of all, it is a silence which places us at the disposal of Christ Himself. Participation in the silence is not dependent on status, or action, qualification or competence. No special equipment is needed. No gym subscription. No radical diet. It may be done within the comfort of your own home.
Perhaps then, all Christians, but most especially priests and religious, might begin this coming year with an inner resolve to once more place themselves at the disposal of Christ. Such a resolve demands faith and courage. In the face of the plight of the Church and the conduct of the few, such faith and courage may be in short supply. Nonetheless, the source and cause of our courage could not be clearer. The fulcrum of the Church's year is the feast of Christ the King. In its commemoration of the secular calendar year, the Church's attention is directed to Mary, the Mother of God. The Kingship of Christ will reign for all time. If we are each to fulfil our vocation His reign and dominion must extend to our own hearts. Who better to aid us in our efforts than his own Blessed Mother; the Queen of Heaven? We may, each one of us, look to them to affirm our resolve; not as a sign of weakness but in recognition of our dependence upon them as the cause of our faith and Icons of hope.
In the words of Cardinal Sarah:
“God achieves everything, acts in all circumstances, and brings about all interior transformations. But he does it when we wait for him in recollection and silence. In silence, not in the turmoil and noise, God enters the innermost depths of our being…" (The Power of Silence p 25).
Perhaps this evening we may all, laity, members of religious life or clergy, make but one resolution, namely: in the year ahead let silence be our celebration. Not the silence of fear, but, the silence of waiting. A silence stilled by our hope in the future. Hope founded upon Faith in the ever present and Eternal Truth of the Word of God. Our God who calls us to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.
Mary Mother of God, pray for us.