I trust that you all experienced a joyful and peaceful beginning to the New Year. And it is my hope and prayer that 2018 will bring a year of many joys and blessings to each of us: to our parish and Redemptorist communities, to all families, and to all those that we love. On a personal level, it is a great pleasure for me to be back functioning fully as your parish priest, and, after my surgery, that I will have more than enough energy to serve all the members of the parish as best I can.
Today we celebrate the beautiful feast of the Epiphany, when we remember the occasion when the wise men followed a star in search of God, and in finding the baby Jesus, offered their hearts and their gifts in adoration. This feast invites each of us to do exactly the same. The critical thing is that we make a priority of following the star of our faith, which will always lead to Jesus. In doing so, we become aware of our own weaknesses; the sense that we have little to offer to the Son of God. But it is our desire to offer our hearts which is the greatest gift that we have to offer. So, may we be filled with peace and trust as we begin this New Year, committing ourselves to finding God in the midst of our daily lives, and to offering our hearts to Him with all our love.
There has long been a tradition of people making New Year resolutions. Most of us only succeed in keeping these resolutions for a few days, or for a few weeks at the most! I find it helpful that Pope Francis has suggested 10 New Year resolutions for this year. I think that it would be helpful for all of us to read and ponder on them; and to pray for the grace of keeping these resolutions throughout this coming year. Here is what he has to suggest:
1. “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
2. “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”
3. “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
4. “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”
5. “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
6. “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
7. “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”
8. “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
9. “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”
10. “Making sure your New Year is all about Jesus and not about shopping.”
We can always trust Pope Francis to provide us with spiritual advice that is very down to earth and practical. If we follow his advice, then we can be sure that the coming year will be a time of grace and blessing for each of us. Let us accept the gift of his words on this feast of the Epiphany, so that we might all be transformed into the image of Christ through grace.
Fr Gerard, CSsR