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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Treasuring and pondering

At the beginning of the new year, a look back at all that has been, and a prayer for God's blessing on the year that lies ahead.


Blessings for the new year

With the celebration of today’s liturgy, we begin a new calendar year.  We look back on the year that has just passed and give thanks for all the graces we have received from the Lord.  In our parish community, we are thankful for the life of each person who has come to pray with us.  Throughout the past year, we have witnessed the baptisms of 33 children.  In addition, we rejoiced with 23 young people who affirmed their commitment to live their faith, and we rejoiced as 28 children received the precious food of the Eucharist for the first time.  Another 32 little ones encountered the mercy of God during the Year of Mercy as they participated in their first celebration of Sacrament of Reconciliation, and four couples stood at the foot of the altar to proclaim their marriage vows to one another in the midst of this community of faith.  Throughout the past twelve months, we prayed 47 souls into eternity, giving thanks for all that God has accomplished through them during their time on earth and now we count on their prayers from the heavenly realms for each of us who is still on our pilgrim way.

This pilgrimage of earthly life is not unlike the pilgrimage that was accomplished by the shepherds who heard the angels’ greetings.  They set out on a quest to find the child that had been proclaimed to them.  We too can resolve to set out on such a pilgrimage during the year that lies ahead.  Like the shepherds, each of us must seek the Lord, and when we find him, we too must make known to those we meet, what has been told to us about the child (cf Lk 2:17).

Good news always needs to be shared with others.  When Mary and Joseph heard the news that the shepherds shared, they were amazed, but the gospel writer tells us that all those who heard it were amazed, therefore we can assume that Mary and Joseph were not the only ones to hear the news from the lips of the shepherds.  Perhaps even as they made their way from the fields in search of the child, they had met others, and told them the joyful news as well.  Joy is infectious, and so it is quite possible that this gift that had filled the hearts of the shepherds had begun to spread among the people of Bethlehem even before the parents of Jesus had heard about it.

When they did hear the joyful tidings, we are told that Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart (Lk 2:19).  This is an important lesson for all of us to learn.  Mary did not allow the joy of this moment to pass her by.  Like her, we too can pause at moments such as these to treasure the memories that we have created during the past year, and to ponder what the future will hold for each of the little ones who was baptized in this community, for each of the newlywed couples who have set out on a new adventure, and for every one of us who is continuing the pilgrimage of life.  Each of us is a child of God, an heir to the treasure of heaven.

With thankful hearts for all that has been, we now look to the year that beckons.  This new beginning will also bring its share of blessings, including a new pastoral programme known as Discovering Christ.  God is preparing surprises for us in the coming year and so we come today to seek his blessing.  The words of benediction spoken by Aaron are repeated in today’s first reading so that we too can benefit from the graces they bestow: May the Lord bless us and keep us; may the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us the gift of his peace (Num 6:24-26).
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