The conclusion of the calendar year can provoke any number of feelings as we recall the many events that happened. We may feel regret at missed opportunities or hope at the promise of a new beginning.
The Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy offers two feelings that we should experience at the end of the year.
Popular piety has given rise to many pious exercises connected with December 31. In many parts of the Western world the end of the civil year is celebrated on this day. This anniversary affords an opportunity for the faithful to reflect on “the mystery of time,” which passes quickly and inexorably. Such should give rise to a dual feeling: of penance and sorrow for the sins committed during the year and for the lost occasions of grace; and of thanks to God for the graces and blessings He has given during the past year.
As humans, we all make mistakes, and expressing our sorrow is an important part of the process in experiencing God’s mercy. When we feel that sorrow and seek forgiveness from God, we recognize our dependence on God, knowing that he is ready to accept us into his loving arms.
While recalling our faults is a good exercise, we must not dwell too much on them. We need to end our meditation by giving thanks to God for all the many blessings he has given to us. No matter how dark our lives may seem to us, God has given us numerous blessings and graces over the past year. We simply need to recognize those times, asking God for help in discovering the abundance of his love for us.
As we conclude the calendar year, may we look back at the past 12 months with joy and sorrow, looking forward to the next year with hope.