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TAKING STOCK IN THE NEW YEAR

Father Francis's picture

Mt. 2:1-12

The final words of today's Gospel reading – that the kings returned to their own country by a different way - have an important message for us. For this New Year presents us with an opportunity to look at where we have been and to ask where we are going, and if necessary to change the direction of our life.

Where have we been? We should not live in the past but it is a good thing to take an occasional glance backwards. We can never know where we are without some understanding of the way by which we have come. What do we see when we look over our shoulder? I hope there are some good things, some successes and some happy times. We should see them because they are there.

In the midst of problems we tend to lose sight of those good things that have been a real part of our lives. They are there to encourage us on our journey through life. To forget them would be both dishonest and destructive. Any accurate inventory should always include a liberal sprinkling of the good we have achieved. I like the attitude of the old man who had a positive outlook on life - even thorn bushes have roses on them. As we move from one year into the next, let us not forget to carry with us grateful memories of the good times.

What else do we see on the road behind us? No doubt there are some failures, hurts, disappointments and missed opportunities, because we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world and they are an inevitable part of life. But do not carry into the New Year the excess baggage of bitterness and resentment. We have all been hurt to some degree, but we must use those hurts as means of spiritual growth. Otherwise they only drag us down and make us bitter and miserable.

Now where do we go from here? The inescapable fact is that we are going somewhere. One of the most useful things we could do in this New Year is to take an honest and hard look at where we are going with our lives and what we are becoming. Are we in danger of just drifting without purpose or planning? It does not have to be that way. We are endowed with the capacity to choose a destination and to chart our course towards it.

But there is no use choosing a particular goal unless we also choose the day-by-day road that leads us there. It is what we are doing, not what we are dreaming, that determines our destination. If we want it to be Heaven, we must examine our daily acts to see that we are on the road leading there. Any actions or thoughts that cause us to veer from the path to Heaven have to be discarded. That is why our Morning Offering and our daily Examination of Conscience are so important. A very useful prayer at the beginning of every day is, 'Give me the strength, Holy Spirit, to do the work of this day and grant that at its close to be found worthy of Your trust in me.' Then at the end of the day it helps to ask, 'Holy Spirit, how did we get on today?' Notice the reference to the Holy Spirit and I! We will find that when we left Him of what we were doing we probably sinned.

As we look towards a New Year, our lives are certain to be in need some redirecting. Somewhere along the way we have drifted off course. The road we are travelling is not consistent with the place we want to go.

Holy Spirit, like the wise men of old who found the Infant Jesus, let us make a deliberate decision at the beginning of 2016 to travel by another route.

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