How is your new year going so far?
At this early hour in this brand new year, it seems as if anything is possible. The future is a clean page, a blank calendar, waiting to be written on. Everything is pure. Unblemished. How appropriate, then, that we celebrate today Mary, the Mother of God. She herself is Possibility. She is Creation begun anew – the New Eve. With Mary, and the birth of her son, Jesus Christ, the coming of God as man, we get a fresh start.
The brand new year—like the Virgin Mary—is spotless. What will we do with it?
I know: we make resolutions. But before we start tracking all the pounds we won’t lose and the cigarettes we won’t quit and the miles we won’t be walking on the treadmill, allow me to offer another humble suggestion for a new year’s resolution.
It begins with the woman we honor this morning. And it is something that can change the world.
The gospel we just heard says Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Mary didn’t utter a word in this gospel. She reflected. She meditated.
St. Augustine once said, “We may pray most when we say least, and we may pray least when we say most.”
In other words: what we pray matters less than how we pray—and what matters above all is that we pray, lifting our minds and hearts to God.
Want to make a resolution that will really matter?
Resolve to make this new year a year of prayer.
A few days ago, my friend Katrina Fernandez, a writer and blogger and a single mother, posted this on Facebook:
“So for 2016 I challenged my son to pray for a different person every day. He said, ‘But I don’t know 365 people.’ I said they don’t have to be individuals you know. They could be anyone or any group. Last night he wanted to know if we were going to do the same for 2017. ‘But can you come up with 365 more people?’ I asked. ‘Mom,’ he replied, ‘we’ll never run out of people to pray for.’
Katrina said that answer was the best Christmas present ever.
So consider this. Resolve to make this new year a year of prayer.
Every day pray for a different person.
Pray for those you know and those you don’t.
You might start by praying for Pope Francis and Bishop DiMarzio—and our own Bishop Sanchez and all the priests in our parish.
Pray for young men and women discerning a call to religious life.
Pray for Thomas Jorge, a man from this parish who by the grace of God will be ordained a deacon next year.
Pray for world leaders. Pray for our new President, our congress, all our elected leaders. Pray for wisdom and justice, charity and peace.
Pray for those around us. Pray for families who are struggling and parents who are overwhelmed.
Pray for mothers. Remember in your charity women like Nicola Benyahia, whose 19-year-old son left England to join ISIS two years ago and eventually lost his life for a cause his mother will never comprehend.
Pray for parents who grieve for their children and the choices they make.
Pray for fathers. I think of men like Deacon Ed Shoener of Scranton, Pennsylvania whose college-age daughter last summer took her own life. He responded by writing a beautiful obituary that quickly gained national attention, because he wrote with great tenderness and love about his daughter’s struggle with bipolar disorder. He’s now devoting his life to raising awareness of this disease—and letting countless others know they are not alone.
Pray for those who feel they are alone and who suffer in silence.
Pray for those people we often forget, or overlook, or avoid.
Pray for the homeless, the jobless, the frustrated and the desperate. Pray for men like Mike, the gentle giant I pass many afternoons on the steps of the Forest Hills subway station. You may have seen him, holding a cardboard sign and begging for change. I stopped one day and asked him to tell me his story. He said he’d worked in construction but lost his job. He told me he was ashamed and said his family didn’t know he was doing this. I asked him what he would like to be able to do. He said, “I’d like to be able to take my wife out to dinner.” I ended up getting him a pizza and telling him, “Here, it’s not much, but it’s a start.”
Pray for people fighting to hold on to their dignity. Pray that the new year will truly give them a new beginning.
Pray for men like Agnan, a 62-year-old auto repairman I met two years ago in Amman, Jordan. He had lived most of his life in Iraq, but fled when ISIS overtook Mosul. He lost everything and barely escaped with his life. He told me he hoped one day to join his daughter in California.
And he added: the one thing that sustained him was prayer. It kept him alive.
Pray for people who hope, that they never lose hope.
And may our prayers draw us closer to the one whose birth we continue to celebrate this season, Christ our Lord—the Prince of Peace.
I know: there’s a lot of good that we can do by dropping a few pounds or quitting a bad habit. But here’s one good habit that we can pick up that can change each of us—and, I believe, change the world.
Try it. One prayer at a time. One soul at a time.
Let us begin.
Let us raise our hearts and our hopes at the dawn of another year.
Let us look to this time of great beginnings as Mary did—with faith, and with confidence, and with trust.
Let us believe, as Mary did, that nothing is impossible with God.
In short: let us…pray.