A blessed and happy New Year to you and your families!
As we turn the page on 2016 and look to 2017, it is good to take a moment and ponder in our heart all that has happened in this past year. In fact, if you were to place a title at the top of 2016, how would you describe it? In one word, what would you say? “2016 was the Year of ______.”
For Cubs fans, 2016 was the Year of Miracles. For the politically minded, 2016 was the Year of Revolution. If you watch a lot of news, they will tell you 2016 was the Year of Tragedies. For some here, 2016 was the Year of New Beginnings and new springtimes in our families. For others, it was the Year of a Loss: loss of a loved one or a job, or a constant battle with sickness.
How would you describe this year?
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For Catholics, we actually describe the year with two little letters: A. D.
Those letters stand for “Anno Domini”—that’s Latin for “in the Year of the Lord.”
Oftentimes, people equate this with it being 2,016 years since the birth of Jesus—2,016 since the year of the Lord. Or 2,016 years After Death of Jesus. That’s not what it means.
2016 in the Year of the Lord means that this year, right now, and this past one which we are closing—this year is in The Year of the Lord. There is only one year—The Year of God—in God’s Time.
And in That Year is God’s universal reign. The Year belongs to Him: the Year of the Lord.
What we are talking about is His universal reign: that whatever happened in 2016, God was there. No matter whether it was The Cross or the Glory, God saw all and acted—indeed—everything was within His providential reign.
Therefore, when we say that it’s the New Year, when we look back and give a title to 2017, we will say it’s 2017 A.D.: 2017 in the Reign of God; 2017 in the kingdom of grace; 2017 in the Year of the Lord.
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What does this mean for the next 365 days?
Well, I look to Mary on this her Solemnity. On Christmas morn, there began Year One in the Year of the Lord. The Reign of God and His Kingdom of Grace began with humble beginnings, poor beginnings, hidden and seemingly imperfect and powerless. But the Year of the Lord began with an embrace and with contemplation: “Mary pondered all of these things in her heart.” In other words, Mary reflected upon the events happening in time, the events from the past day and week and month and year and could now present them to Our Lord and see them in a new light. The events of the past year were not beyond God’s power or direction; indeed, Mary ponders precisely because she now is seeing that the events of the past have led precisely to this moment. And Mary recognizes the importance and the beauty of this moment in God’s Time: life is never going to be the same—and in a good way—and that’s a good thing.
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I think here of all of you parents. Parents, do you remember the birth of your first child? Not your fourth or fifth—your first. There was a moment (and maybe it happened when you were at the hospital or maybe it happened when you brought your little one home and it cried for the first time in the middle of the night), there was a moment when it all became real. Really real. So real that you might have wondered whether you had the mettle for it. Where you maybe said out loud, “Is it too late to take it back?”
And life was never going to be the same. You knew that there was a different life ahead of you where decisions were not just about you anymore, but about your family—your child. Once, when you didn’t care about school mission statements and car safety ratings, now suddenly you were booking up. And as that child cried, you were faced with the decision to be purified of your self-centeredness and become other-centered. And you would look back on those years in your marriage before you had children as “B.C.”: before children.
If we allowed ourselves to be softened and other-centered, then we look back on having children with gratitude. The new life that came about in the Year of Children, in the Reign of Family—that new life opened up to Crosses, yes, but to wisdom and love and—well—we ponder it all in our hearts with amazement.
This is at the heart of living in the Year of the Lord. Mary—and, indeed, all of us—have a new life before us, a new year: The Year of the Lord. And the only way this new life brings peace and joy and wisdom and love is to consent to this Reign. To say yes to becoming other-centered. To live each day—not just Sunday—but every day IN the Year of the Lord. Just like parents who are parents every day, and not just Sunday, who have their marriage and their children at the center, so too Catholics are Catholics not just Sunday, but every day, and they have God and His Reign at the center.
This is what will transform our 2017 from bring “just another year” or a “year of tragedy,” and so on, to being a year of faith and hope and love and peace—truly a Year of the Lord.
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My personal prayer for all of my parishioners and for all of us here is that we may venture to the church more frequently. Not only more Sundays, but more weekdays. And not just for Mass, but to simply visit Our Lord in the tabernacle and in the adoration chapel. To kneel and to place our day and our week and our month and our year at His feet and allow His reign to illuminate our paths and strengthen our hearts. What a great source of peace it is to “ponder in our hearts” the events of our lives in the light of God’s reign. It really does transform us. This is my prayer for you, therefore, that 2017 A.D. will truly be for you a season of holiness and growth and joy for you dwelling in the Year of the Lord.