On New Year’s Eve someone texted me, ‘I’m not staying up tonight in order to welcome in the new year, but to make sure that the old one leaves,’ in other words, ‘Good riddance 2021!’
Between Delta and Omicron variants of Covid, vaccine mandates, ongoing lockdowns in some areas, political tensions, and now, serious inflation, it is quite understandable that people would want to close the chapter that was 2021. 'Hopefully, 2022 will be better.’
This transition from one year to the next has led me to reflect on our relationship to time, especially the past and the future.
The first thought is that the passage of time is meant to be a blessing. Although we may struggle in this fallen world, time allows us the gift to begin again. If last year did not go well, hopefully next year will be better. If last week did not go well, hopefully this one will. If yesterday went poorly, tomorrow might be better. Every unit of time is truly somewhat of a new beginning. It is an opportunity to make or to renew certain resolutions like making more time for prayer, or family, or exercise, etc.
Secondly, this expectation of a better future reveals the importance of hope. ‘Hope in what?’, you may ask? Secular culture often declares hope in a progressive understanding of time. Things will simply get better on the loose assumption that as we move forward in time our technological knowledge increases and life will automatically get better as a result. The problem with that expectation is that it implies that ignorance is the only source of ill, not taking into account egotism or sin. Whereas, the Christian also has hope for the future, but ultimately that future is heaven, and the foundation of that hope is God’s fidelity in getting us there.
Thirdly, confidence in God’s fidelity to lead us home will help us better weather the storms that come our way. There is nothing that can happen in our lives that God cannot use towards our benefit, towards our sanctification. This is the inherent meaning behind St. Paul’s exclamation, ‘We know that all things work for good for those who love God.’ [Romans 8:28]. It is therefore, that context of God’s fidelity that help us discern the good in all things.
This is why, fourthly, we must take care in how we assess our past. In my own life there were certain periods which I simply labelled as ‘yuck,’ put a lid on them, and no longer wanted to remember them. ‘Move on… don’t look back’ was my motto; but it was not God’s. Through a spiritual process, Our Lord wanted to heal my memory. I had to look back and acknowledge the yuck. I did this with the assistance of a spiritual guide. [If your past contains severe emotional wounds, you may need the assistance of a good Christian counselor.] What I learned through the process is that pretending to ignore certain wounds meant that I continued to carry them unresolved within me. When I acknowledged the wounds and gave them to Our Lord – not without a few tears – there was real healing. My Savior redeemed my past. Yes, certain events had been difficult, but God had also been present there. Many graces came through those difficulties. Furthermore, since I was willing to look at those periods previously labelled ‘yuck,’ Our Lord also helped me realize that there had also been much good during those times.
Consequently, my invitation to you is to look on 2021, or any moment in your past, with the eyes of Our Lord. Ask him how he understands you journey up to this point. Let him reveal his grace working within the mess of your own shortcomings, those of people close to you, or even crazy world events.
It’s fine to be grateful for an end to 2021, just make sure to recognize the graces it contained before fully closing that chapter.
I wish you a very blessed new year.
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Thy Kingdom Come!
Image: by Bru-nO on https://pixabay.com/