The pontiff ended his first year as pope stressing the need to seek forgiveness and maintain the unity of the family.
It has become a custom of recent popes to end the year with a special “Te Deum” liturgy where they reflect on the past year and conclude it in a spirit of thanksgiving. St. John Paul II ended his first year as pope celebrating the feast of the Holy Family and reflected in his final homily of 1978 on the family and how “The deepest human problems are connected with the family.”
He went on to explain that the family, “constitutes the primary, fundamental and irreplaceable community for man.” For this reason any attack on the family does irreparable harm to society at large. Furthermore, he explained how easy it is to destroy the values that preserve the family, “while it is very difficult to reconstruct these values.”
John Paul II believed it was necessary to end the year reflecting on how we have sought to preserve the family, in our own lives as well as in our local community, and ask forgiveness for those times when we did something to breakdown the family.
Concluding this year in this way, let us give thanks to God for everything that—in the various spheres of earthly existence—makes men even more of a “family”, that is, more brothers and sisters, who have in common the one Father. At the same time, let us ask for forgiveness for everything that is alien to the common brotherhood of men, that destroys the unity of the human family, that threatens it and impedes it.
As John Paul II said in a homily in 1986, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
If we want to save society and be a light in the darkness, let us work first on our own family, give thanks for the many blessings we have and ask forgiveness for anything that causes division. If our own family is falling apart, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the world in disarray. It all beings and ends in the family, so as we look forward to the new year, let us focus on the family and seek reconciliation within our own family, before trying to tackle global peace.