Last night we said goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019. ‘Tempus fugit’ was a sign to be found on many old clocks; meaning ‘time flies’. Time nor tide waits for no person. Every moment in time is pure gift and there is a time in God’s plan for everything. So at this time we let go of the past and welcome what is to come. A spiritual writer wrote one time that ‘Life by its very nature is full and overflowing with the new but it is necessary to empty out the old in order to make room for the new.’ In Greece there is a tradition of throwing out pots pans and other unwanted clutter just before midnight in order to let go of the past and make room for the new. We pause for a moment of reflection to ask what personal junk would I like to dispose of that belongs to 2018?
A good question to ask as we come to the end of another year is how far have we come? Whether we like to believe it or not we have all come a lot farther than we might think; at the outer level at least.
Would you believe that in the past year alone we have travelled 595m miles around the sun going at a speed of 66,600 mph. If that weren’t enough as a member of the solar family composed of the sun and nine planets and their moons we have also been racing outwards into space at a rate of a million miles a day. Its not something we can even imagine and yet its happening even as we speak. So it is with our utterly astonishing and ever expanding universe. It makes the fear of flying sound a bit irrational, we’re always flying really.
That’s the outer world, now what about our inner world, how far have we travelled and more importantly what lessons have we learned. In life the same things keep on happening over and over again until we learn what they have to teach us. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. What suffering did the past year bring us? Did it have a familiar ring tone, a sense of de-ja-vous? What situations did we find ourselves in and what did we have to learn?
I will share with you a few of my own lessons from ’18 just by way of jogging your memory and helping you recall some of yours.
You would think that with getting older the pace of life should slow down. For some it does. I met a former schoolmate who is from this parish and he’s retired several years. For a long time now I find myself working twice as hard as I used to. There are a lot of increased demands at different levels and since coming here the TV hasn’t been on long enough to even warm up. The big lesson for me is that the busier I get the more quiet time I need especially first thing in the mornings. You won’t see me out and about much then because I like the early morning for quiet time. And if I work till the wee small hours on a wood project I just might be guilty of putting Z’s in the air till close to mass time. Before Mass is a good time to phone if you want to chat or arrange an appointmrent. I see it as my responsibility to prepare my heart and remain in a place of listening so that I can give a word that is fresh and can touch peoples lives.
Another lesson I’m learning is the importance of surrender, to just give my yes and then to let God be God. Over the past few weeks we have been hearing the nativity accounts. I have been really struck by all the ways God intervened in order to bring about his purposes. All it took was Mary’s unconditional yes, her surrender to his will and then Divine providence took over. Think of the way Joseph was guided to be her husband and how the infant child was protected from the likes of Herod. Consider how the ancient prophecies were fulfilled against all the odds, even for Christ to be born in Bethlehem, to be a Son Of David and to be called a Nazarene. So my lesson is that God knows what he is doing and I am merely the servant of a great architect. When a disappointment comes it is my responsibility to see it as a divine appointment. When my plans are upset and my dreams shattered, even that is not pure chance, I still must leave the Father free to weave the pattern of my days. In other words when things are not working out my way He is still in charge and doing things His way. Perhaps my prayer for the coming year needs to be ‘Lord keep my nose out of your business’ and don’t let me think that even as Parish Priest I have to control anything or anyone.’
Finally a good way to check if I have deepened my spiritual awareness in the past year is reflect to what degree am I able to hold my inner peace no matter what is happening. A yardstick for genuine spirituality is always, how many times a day do I get upset? In other words what, or who do I allow to upset me, to get to me, to cause me annoyance, whose ears do I feel like boxing? All the water in the ocean won’t sink my boat but when I find myself leaking it’s a great reminder that my controlling ego is trying to rule the roost. In the end of the day, strange as it may seem, and as I have often said no one can actually upset me, I upset myself. That’s not a message any of us like to hear so feel free to take it personal but there’s no need to feel huffed because it applies to us all. For the New Year rather than getting hot and bothered about how others need to behave why not adopt the prayer ‘Lord change in me what I see others need to change in them.’ It’s actually Christ’s Kingdom formula to ensure a harmonious New Year where we no longer need to point fingers because we’re now taking responsibility for ourselves.