Every new year marks a new beginning, a chance to make a fresh start. This is a hopeful thought and a very “Catholic” thought.
Our life of faith is always a work of beginning and beginning again.
Following Jesus, becoming the person whom God made us to be, is the project of a lifetime and we carry it out in the daily struggle against selfishness and weakness. We make mistakes, lose focus, and make wrong turns; but always, we begin again.
What makes it all possible is God’s great love for us.
I thought about that a lot during the Christmas season. I thought especially about how as Catholics, we belong to a great narrative of love, the story of salvation history that gives meaning and purpose to our lives.
In its outlines, the story goes like this:
At a moment in human history, the living God, the Creator of life, came down to his creation, to live among us in Jesus, a person both fully divine and fully human. God came as a baby and revealed his true face as a Father who loves every person as his own son or daughter.
In his life, death, and rising from the dead, Jesus showed the depths of the Father’s love, revealing the destiny of our human lives, that we are made to share in God’s own divine life as he shared in our human life.
By his teaching, Jesus set out the path we are to follow as children of God, and our lives are now a journey of love in his Church that leads beyond death to eternal life with the Father in heaven.
This is the beautiful story that we have inherited as Catholics and the story that we have become a part of in our baptism.
This story tells us who we are, what we are here for, and how we should live. It tells us where we came from and where we are going. This story tells us what we should value and what really matters.
Our Catholic story gives our lives “roots” in the spiritual family we call the Church. It is the source for our prayers and worship, our teachings, and all that we call our Catholic tradition and culture.
We are in a moment when the Catholic story, and the wider Judeo-Christian story that formed the basis for Western civilization, is being rejected. There are many reasons for this, but we can see its consequences in the crisis of meaning that is spreading throughout society.
This is also a challenge for us as Catholics, as it becomes more difficult for us to tell our story and to live according to our beliefs.
That’s why I think it’s important, as we begin the new year, to return and reflect on our Catholic story and to be renewed in its truth and promises.
The story we have inherited is a beautiful and personal love story.
God wants nothing “out of us” but our love. He created each of us for our own sake, simply because he loves us; it’s as if he could not imagine the world without us.
God does not want to control or “lord over” us. He simply wants to live with us and be our friend.
The promise that God makes to us is this: if we accept his love and believe in his love, if we love him as he loves us, and if we love others as he loves them, then we can become like him. And if we follow his way of love, he promises that we can know the joy of what Jesus called the abundance of life.
In this coming year, let us ask for the grace to deepen our faith in the power of our Catholic story, in the truth of Jesus Christ and his love for us.
In a practical way, we can be renewed in this story through ever deeper devotion to the Eucharist.
In every celebration of the Eucharist, we pray the prayers of our ancestors, hear their stories from the Scriptures, and listen to the words of Jesus. Every Eucharistic prayer retells the story of his sacrifice of love and communicates that love to us.
So, let us resolve again this year to make the celebration of holy Mass, and the encounter with the living God that we have in the bread and wine, the heart of our lives.
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to tell the story of her Son with new joy, confidence, and courage, especially to our young people.