And so we come once again to a new year … and with the new year comes the anticipation of newness, improvement … and renewed hopes and dreams to be realized. (Personally, just “realizing” a few pounds of Christmas biscochitos off the midsection would make me pretty darn happy.)
We’ve ended the year here at IHM on a couple of really good notes. We had a new beautiful baby girl born a couple of days after Christmas—one of several newborns in our parish over the year, with the prospect of several more in the coming year as evidenced by the burgeoning tummies of some glowing mothers. Our Sunday 9 a.m. Masses tend to be the ones attended by parents with our precious little ones, and thus is always the most raucous. But it’s a good raucous—the sounds of new life and new little images of God blessing our community—not only our own parish, but the LA community (indeed, the community of the world) as a whole. As Pope John Paul II remarked in his Urbi et Orbi address of Christmas 1978: “For God and before God, [each] human being is always unique and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by his own name.” A favorite event of the week is to go to our parish hall after the 9 a.m. Mass (our coffee & doughnuts time) and watch the unbridled glee of the little ones playing together … the hall’s perimeter becoming somewhat of a provisional racetrack.
Another wonderful note at year’s end was the wedding of one of our young lifelong parishioners—ending the year with a new and exciting beginning—most certainly with a “ring” of newness and wonder as she begins her marital bliss with her husband. A beautiful girl in a beautiful multi-generational dress, newly-wedded to her handsome lad in the beautiful cathedral basilica in Santa Fe; what more joyful ending of the year than that? We wish them—and all married couples—blessings and happiness in the new year. As I mentioned to the young couple, there is little better advice for marriage than St. Paul’s words: “Put on then… holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and… forgiving each other…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12ff) Words to live by.
But … the new year can also be fraught with trepidation at times. With some of our ill and elderly, especially, we often cannot help but wonder if the inevitable cessation of earthly life will arrive, and whether they be with us this time next year. And yet … the faithful Christian is well aware that the end of this brief earthly life is actually the truest—and final—beginning. He remembers that this life is no more than a journey through the desert, analogized by the Israelites’ own journey through the Sinai thousands of years ago … and the true Promised Land lay across the shallow and narrow Jordan of bodily death.
And so the faithful Christian lives life not fearing death, but almost in anticipation of it … exclaiming in his faith the words of St. Paul: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” And yet, Paul continues: “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith…” (Philippians 1:23-25) This is the sentiment of that faithful and patient Christian—to work as best he can for the harvest, until the Lord calls him home.
In all these things—new human life, new marriage, and even in a death confident of eternal life—there lies that ever-necessary thread without which true happiness will not be found: commitment. Parents commit to that newly-born life despite thousands of diapers, sleepless nights, inevitable illness, the “terrible twos”, teenage rebellion and ingratitude, but with the anticipation of grandchildren—“the crown of the aged.” (Proverbs 17:6) The newly-wedded commit to one another “…in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till death do us part,” … despite financial hardship, differences, temptations to infidelity, sickness … And, finally, the dying faithful Christian’s confidence, buttressed with the knowledge of a committed life lived in seeking virtue rather than vice in accordance with the Word of the Lord—the babe born on Christmas morn, who would die years later upon a cross for the salvation of the world.
So in this new year, let us renew those commitments—to family and friends … to faith … and to fidelity to all that is truly good. Shakespeare stated it well: “Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” (Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2) … echoing Jesus’ admonition: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13) It is only in those good (and constant!) commitments that we find happiness … honor … good remembrance by those we leave behind, and, in the end—come when it may—the eternal life which we seek.
So, yes, make those common new year’s resolutions—to quit smoking, better health, etc., … but most of all, resolve to renew and strengthen those good commitments based in love—love of God, love of neighbor. And please: no more biscochitos. Well … at least ‘til next year. 😉