On December 31st many of us gathered with family and friends counted down the seconds to a new year we call “2017”. A few of us will have gone to bed hours well before the countdown calculating that the new year is quite capable of beginning without us.
No matter the group to which we belong it is safe to say we will all take note that a new cycle of days has begun.
The beginning of a year is rightly understood not simply as an excuse to celebrate but an occasion for reflection. In order to truly celebrate we need to be able to point to a reason for our joy. What is it that brings us joy at the beginning of a new journey around the sun for planet earth?
No one who pays any attention to events in this world of ours can fail to discern many concerning trends and reasons for feeling unsettled about what may unfold in 2017. The life and dignity of people throughout the world is being violated in horrifying ways.
The Middle East continues to be a place of instability with the potential to draw the world’s great powers into direct confrontations. Climate change and other environmental concerns are showing their effects. In the United States it is hard to imagine a time since the Civil War when we have been so polarized.
No matter where you may find yourself on the political spectrum one thing we all have in common is that we are very concerned about the direction of our country and of our society.
As we honestly reflect about our own personal lives and our families we can be confident that challenges will lie in store for us in the coming year. What will become of your ailing parent? What about your sibling with the troubled marriage? What will become of your adult child who is addicted to drugs? What are the prospects for your dead end job?
So I return to my earlier question: What is it that brings us joy at the beginning of this new journey around the sun? What is the reason for hope in the face of so many ominous realities? It should be clear that humanity is not going to save itself. To put our trust in science, as impressive as its progress has been, is not prudent. Technology can be used for both good or ill and humanity has not shown itself capable of pursuing only the good in a world of nuclear proliferation.
Must we simply close our eyes to these trends and suggest the only answer is to ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die?’ I think not!
Remember why it is that we call this year “2017”. We begin our counting of the years based upon the event upon which all history turns: the entrance of the Son of God into the world. Without this unimaginably good news history would only be a meaningless cycle provided with only one escape, death.
Because God has entered our life to save us; since he has revealed his mercy and unfolded his saving plan, we have every reason to celebrate as a new year begins. Hope has been born! Joy has a reason!
Bp. Mark J. Seitz
Bishop of El Paso
(Editor’s Note: this piece originally appeared on the Diocese of El Paso website, and is republished here with their permission.)