Celebrating the New Year

 Sean C. Peters, CSJ

Carrying love into the new year

Each year as January rolls around, I think, “How did we get to the new year already? Didn’t last year just start a few months ago?” But standing here, on the threshold of another year, gives me the opportunity to look both back at the past and forward to the future. I like to think about what I want to leave behind and what I want to carry into the future.

Since I want to go into the new year with a free heart, I want to leave behind anything that weighs me down – the fear and powerlessness that come from not recognizing the truth of who God calls me to be. How often do we act out of fear? We fear that others will reject us because they do things differently from us. So, we never reach out to them. These might be people from different countries and cultures or a person who lives right in our own homes. Our fear stands in the way of embracing the other as our neighbor. How much of the violence that has characterized the recent centuries with bloody wars and constant urban unrest has emerged out of just such fears? Let’s leave those fears behind.

How often do our fears and the prejudices that result from them keep us from learning and deepening? I may choose carefully what I read, whom I listen to on the TV or radio, whom I talk to at home because I fear that if I listen too deeply to another point of view, I will have to lay aside what I believe now. That will take too much energy, so I remain content. I heard something recently that I liked: in a place where everyone thinks alike, there is very little thinking at all.

I definitely want to leave behind any sense of powerlessness—the feeling that I make no difference in our world. Believing that my actions have no effect in the “global marketplace” lets me off the hook—allows me to pull back into a life aimed more at my own comfort. Then I don’t have to look for ways to love others as I love myself. I can be safe and secure knowing that no matter what I try, it will make no difference. In this way, we stifle the gifts of the Spirit.

I want to go into the new year free from all past hurts. I’m going to just drop them next to the door as I pass into this new year. All they do is weigh me down. Why would I want to continue to carry them? What do they do for me? Maybe I believe that they protect me from having to pick up the burdens of the neighbors I will meet this year. Or perhaps it seems easier to carry my own familiar hurts than to risk breaking my heart in love and service of others. But if I let go of my past hurts, I may find what so many before me have discovered—that helping to bear the cross of another mends rather than breaks my heart.

These, then, are the fears and false beliefs I want to leave behind in this old year. 

For the new year, I will take only the sure hope that a God who has brought us so lovingly to this point will certainly accompany us with great abundance into this new year. If we can believe that, then, with great courage and love, this Congregation of the Great Love of God will celebrate the new year with a gusto that will indeed renew the face of the earth. 

Category: Reflections

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