a new year

The greeting of the day will be “Happy New Year” to family, friends and even to strangers. However in the midst of the celebration and the happy hellos our experience reminds us that without our vigilance and vision, too soon a new year can become aged and tired by the routines and demands of life.

There is a remedy for this malaise and it is found in the gospel reading for today’s feast of Mary the Mother of God.

The shepherds arrive, encounter the Christ child, and then return to their fields transformed. Shepherds don’t normally go about their shepherding “glorifying and praising God” because “of all that they had heard and seen,” but after coming face to face with Christ these first Christian messengers return to their work routines vibrating with hope.

Note that it is the encounter with the child Jesus that is the transforming event. This encounter which begins a life of intimacy with God, is the most fundamental need of every person.

Pope Francis said it powerfully in his Midnight Mass homily last week:

And just as God called the shepherds, so too he calls us, for he loves us. In the dark night of life, he says to us as he did to them, “Be not afraid!” . Take courage, do not lose confidence, do not lose hope, do not think that to love is a waste of time! Tonight love has conquered fear, new hope has arrived, God’s kindly light has overcome the darkness of human arrogance.

You are no longer alone! Dear brothers and sisters, what are we to do with this grace? Only one thing: accept the gift. Before we go out to seek God, let us allow ourselves to be sought by him.

Let us not begin with our own abilities but with his grace, for he, Jesus, is the Saviour. Let us contemplate the Child and let ourselves be caught up in his tender love. Then we have no further excuse for not letting ourselves be loved by him.

Whatever goes wrong in our lives, whatever doesn’t work in the Church, whatever problems there are in the world, will no longer serve as an excuse. It will become secondary, for faced with Jesus’ extravagant love, a love of utter meekness and closeness, we have no excuse. At Christmas, the question is this: “Do I allow myself to be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to his love that comes to save me?”

The pope concluded his homily with a story:

A charming legend relates that at the birth of Jesus the shepherds hurried to the stable with different gifts. Each brought what he had; some brought the fruits of their labour, others some precious item. But as they were all presenting their gifts, there was one shepherd who had nothing to give. He was extremely poor; he had no gift to present.

As the others were competing to offer their gifts, he stood apart, embarrassed. At a certain point, Saint Joseph and Our Lady found it hard to receive all the gifts, especially Mary, who had to hold the baby. Seeing that shepherd with empty hands, she asked him to draw near. And she put the baby Jesus in his arms.

That shepherd, in accepting him, became aware of having received what he did not deserve, of holding in his arms the greatest gift of all time. He looked at his hands, those hands that seemed to him always empty; they had become the cradle of God. He felt himself loved and, overcoming his embarrassment, began to show Jesus to the others, for he could not keep for himself the gift of gifts.

Dear brother, dear sister, if your hands seem empty, if you think your heart is poor in love, this night is for you. The grace of God has appeared, to shine forth in your life. Accept it and the light of Christmas will shine forth in you.

The first reading from today’s Mass gives the benediction which beautifully and powerfully expresses the desire of God to bless and keep, graciously shining his face upon us, looking kindly on us and giving us peace.

You can hear John Rutter’s beautiful setting of this blessing at the link below:

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!

15 Responses to "a new year"
  1. Thank you Fr John for our Advent journey and bringing us into 2021. May your year be blessed with good health.

  2. You have such a gift with words and ‘the word’. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. Sooooo appreciated!
    Arohanui
    PJ

  3. Thank you Father John, your many beautiful writings have given Lynn and I great strength, and today your messages and that of Pope Francis gives each of us that moment of clarity. It allows us to dwell on the Lord and not be distracted with the events in the media/ the world.
    Thank you and many blessings to you

  4. What a wonderful start to the New Year, thank you for these beautiful thoughts and may you have a peaceful and healthy year God’s blessings to you always.

  5. Yes, May we be continually reminded that it is God who seeks us to embrace us and surround us with love in the myriad events of our lives and we have so much to learn and ponder from the experiences and responses of SS Mary and Joseph. Thank you ever so much Fr John for your reflections during this season of Advent and for all the prayers surrounding those whose initials have been listed. Blessings upon your year.

  6. Happy New Year to all the companions on this faith journey. Thank you Fr John and all. The message of today is powerful and I will take this and reflect more on it.

  7. Good morning Fr John
    My heart is so full of your Reflection this morning. Tears wiped my face. Thank you.
    Pope Francis’s words are so powerful, and to bring in this year 2021 with this power is an incredible message of hope, if I but open my hands to the amazing gifts in front of me.
    Thank you for your words.
    Prayers in Christ
    SKJ

  8. As always John you have done a wonderful mini retreat in today’s reflection. I have a Chinese friend and we always say at each New Year Kung Hay Fat Choi which I believe is Cantonese for Happy New Year a blessing I extend to you and your readers.

  9. God bless you and thank you Father John for all the beautiful reflections given to us over the Advent/Christmas season.
    I particularly love the shepherds who were so down to earth and ordinary and yet God came to them in an extraordinary way and changed their lives forever. They followed him all their lives and were great evangelisers. We need to be like shepherds today more than ever simple humble pure in heart and stay close to Jesus.
    A New Year blessing on you and all our fellow travellers who have prayed for all those whose initials were posted. By drawing close to Jesus as the shepherds did we can expect miracles.

  10. Thank you Fr John not just for the Advent reflections but also the series you did through those dark days of lockdown early on last year! They gave us something we could look forward to on awaking in the mornings and lifted our spirits for the day ahead. God Bless you and your work.

  11. Loved the story about the shepherd who had brought no gift, and was filled with the greatest gift of all. I have been blessed by all the reflections over advent and Christmas and will ponder them in the year to come. Happy New Year!

    • Thankyou Fr John,for the
      Beautifull messages of hope
      Always given us, through your written words.The message from PopeFrancis, about the
      Little Shepherd’s feeling of
      emptiness,with nothing to offer,
      Shows me,we think we have nothing to offer, ‘But
      JESUS’
      Knows we do,
      May we see through
      the eyes of JESUS,
      in all we do, to keep
      HIS light shining in us
      GOD BLESS
      Each moment given us,
      With HIS” LIGHT”

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