Happy New Year!  I hope that you all had a joyful and blessed Christmas. Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes that you sent me during this beautiful and sacred season.

We need to enter this new year with the confidence of Christmas. Our God is near. He has come to share our lives. He will never abandon us and he is nearest to us in our times of sorrow and suffering. We need to walk with the confidence and the freedom of being children of God. Our Father listens to our prayers. He does not always give us what we ask for. But nothing is impossible with God. And in everything he is working according to his purpose for the good with those who love him. So as we enter this new year in the Year of Faith declared by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, we need a new commitment to grow in our faith as children of God. The apostles asked Jesus: “Increase our faith!” That should be your prayer and my prayer every day throughout this new year and throughout the rest of our lives! We need to nourish our faith — through daily prayer, reading the Gospels, and through the sacraments. The Eucharist is key. The Eucharist is God’s gift of his very self — to be food that strengthens us on our journey; to be the fire of his love that purifies and sanctifies us. One practical way to live this special time in our parishes is to try to implement our five pastoral priorities with new initiatives and new enthusiasm. So let’s work on these — education in the faith; promoting religious and priestly vocations; fostering our “catholic” identity as the family of God; proclaiming the Gospel of life; and strengthening marriage and family. All of these priorities are about the New Evangelization. We need to remember that many of our neighbors and family members are searching for Jesus. They are curious about him. Many have only external and superficial ideas about him. They need us to “introduce” them. They need us to invite them to “come and see” Jesus. In this Year of Faith, we need to become joyful souls — men and women who spread the joy of our love for Jesus Christ to others. We need to radiate a positive outlook that comes from knowing that God is alive and in charge — in the world and in our lives. Let’s try to break our habit of complaining and try to get rid of all the little resentments and bitterness in our conversations and patterns of thinking. This isn’t easy. But the Sacrament of Penance helps. Penance is the sacrament of self-knowledge. The more we examine ourselves in the light of God’s teaching and Christ’s example, the stronger we grow in understanding our weaknesses and gifts. In the days before Christmas, our Holy Father wrote a very interesting article in the secular British newspaper, The Financial Times. His reflections can help us to make good resolutions as we try to live this Year of Faith. The Pope urged us to “learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus.” And he called us to really engage in the affairs of our nation and our communities — inspired not by politics or ideology, but by the teachings of the Gospel. I was moved by the Holy Father’s beautiful vision of the Church’s social doctrine: “Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life. They work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of a belief that — as stewards of God’s creation — we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable. Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. The belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.” Let’s resolve to really live the Gospel and make it the inspiration for everything we do — in our homes, at work, and in our society. And let’s pray for one another — that we may all make this Year of Faith really count in our lives and in our Church. May Our Lady of the Angels, patroness of this great Archdiocese, help us to increase our faith in this new year, as we seek to walk more closely with her Son, in the company of our brothers and sisters in his family, his Catholic Church. Janjuary 4, 2012 Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.

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