Happy New Year, my friends! I hope this Christmas was a season of joy and blessings for you and your families.
This was my first Christmas as the new Archbishop, so for me it was a time of special grace.
It was beautiful to see such great numbers of people coming to church for Christmas Mass. I witnessed this in our celebrations at the Cathedral. And we saw the same thing in parishes all over the Archdiocese. I’ve heard from my brother bishops that across the country Christmas Masses were very well attended.
So many people coming to worship God for the gift of his Son! What a sign of the spiritual strength of our Catholic faith!
It is a sign that in the face of the troubles we see in our world, and despite the pressures of secularization and materialism, the Christmas star is still shining and still guiding the hearts of many.
This is good for us to remember as we begin a new year, with all the opportunities and challenges that lie before us in 2012.
The Christmas promise is that God is with us, that he has come into our world to stay, that he will be with us until the end of time. We can see the “proof” of that promise all around us, if we have eyes to see.
We can see Jesus changing lives and saving lives every day through the ministry of his Catholic Church — through the Church’s preaching and sacraments, and through her works of charity and service.
And we can see that the Catholic faith — alive and active in the hearts of ordinary believers — is the source for so much that is right and just and beautiful in our world today.
As disciples, we face the same challenge every new year — how keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts all year round. How do we live our faith with the spirit that seems to come so naturally at Christmas — with the same simple joy and quiet devotion; the same desire to be close to our families; the same readiness to forgive, to make sacrifices and to give gifts of love?
In thinking about this, I was struck by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on New Year’s Eve:
Another year is drawing to a close, as we await the start of a new one: with some trepidation, with our perennial desires and expectations. Reflecting on our life experience, we are continually astonished by how ultimately short and ephemeral life is.
So we often find ourselves asking: what meaning can we give to our days? … There is an answer: it is written on the face of a Child who was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.…
The everlasting God has entered our history and he remains present in a unique way in the person of Jesus.… So there is no more room for anxiety in the face of time that passes, never to return; now there is room for unlimited trust in God, by whom we know we are loved, for whom we live, and to whom our life is directed as we await his definitive return.…
With hearts full of thanksgiving, let us prepare to cross the threshold of 2012, remembering that the Lord is watching over us and guarding us.
This is the spirit that we need to carry us into 2012 — a spirit of total confidence that God loves us as his beloved sons and daughters.
Our lives are a gift of time that we receive from God. At the start of this new year, we have to examine ourselves: What are we doing with this precious gift, this time of our lives?
We need to make time for God.Not just certain hours of the day when we pray or think about him. St. Paul once said, we have to redeem the time.We have to make it all for God.
So let’s pray for one another this week.
At the start of this new year, let’s pray for the grace to make our friendship with Jesus Christ the purpose and passion of our lives. Let’s ask for courage to carry out the mission he entrusts to us, the mission of the new evangelization, with joy and love.
I entrust this new year to the loving heart of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother and Star of the Evangelization of the Americas, and to the prayers of the saints and blesseds of all the Americas.
Through their intercession, may they help us to grow in holiness and love as we follow Jesus, who shared our life so that we could share his; who became a Child of Mary at Christmas so that we could become children of God for all eternity.