Thoughts for the Start of a New Year

The following homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls, Chaplain at the Mother of the Light Convent and priest of the Diocese of Fall River, on January 1st.

Today the secular world is celebrating the birth of a new year or recovering from last night’s celebration of New Year’s Eve. I guess it goes back to the worship of the Roman god, Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back.

But the Baby whom we honor today does not have a fancy ribbon numbered 2018. Yes indeed, we find a Baby born more than 2000 years ago, yet as we celebrate the octave of His birth, He is a baby who knows no age and no date.

Today, we feel with Him, the pain of the Rabbi’s knife, pain which this child, this man would feel for the rest of His earthly life. This Baby is called by many, the Prince of Peace.

In 1966, Pope Paul VI asked for a World Day of Prayer for Peace on this first day of the New Year. Not the kind of peace that the world gives, not a political peace, a fragile peace that shrivels and disintegrates, rather the peace that only God can give.

If His word is true, if He is God as we profess, it calls for us to shoulder the awesome responsibilities of the world for the next generations to come. This quest for peace is a powerful challenge for the world today and tomorrow, especially for our youth and young adults.

Peace is the primary challenge to the youth of today. When we speak of young people today, it must be in the context of the whole of society. Today we must begin to recognize that every human being is a child of God, to develop a sense of solidarity as brothers and sisters, rejecting every form of prejudice and injustice, no matter what the label.

Peace is rooted in love and justice, patience and kindness, goodness and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Without these virtues we are not able to respect one another as persons, as a mirror image of the One True God. We must develop a respect for life in all institutions.

We must hold true to this dignity, even in those who have wronged us. Sensitivity of our youth to the problems of peace and disarmament clearly demonstrate the need for involvement in the formation of public policy. Young people are the first to volunteer to take up arms in order to set out a path of peace. But taking up arms must always be a last alternative.

We must inculcate in our young men and women the reality of the whole. We are not factions. We are one Body, one family in Christ. Wether we agree with these teachings of Pope Paul VI, and reiterated by our present Pope Francis, few would deny that they are holy men, men of faith and conviction, and vision for the now and the future.

In the Maronite Tradition, we celebrate today the feasts of Sts. Basil and Gregory, two saints who were great teachers not only in their own time but for all time.

They were brought together by an intense desire which each felt to know as much about God as possible. This knowledge which they sought was not a theoretical understanding of God, but a practical one which effects every human life. For both of them faith was not only preached but lived.

The Office of Readings for this feast in the Roman Rite recounts a reflection from the memoris of St. Gregory: The friendship which brought Basil and I together was as two streams coming together to form a mighty river, which leads to Christ…our single object and ambition was virtue; and a life of hope in things that are to come…our great pursuit, our focus of attention was to be found worthy of being called a Christian!

Each of us has a handful of trustworthy, lasting friends. At the start of this new year we have the opportunity to thank God for those whom He has sent to us along our journey. Such friends are true gifts and wonderful anointing which encourage us to draw others into the community of God’s believers in order to strengthen one another in life, perhaps particularly when the pain of the knife draws blood and tears.