As I often say on this day, this is a cluttered day. We know it is New Year’s Day, it is also the feast of Mary the Mother of God, it was the feast of the Circumcision and it is also the World Day of Peace.
We begin our new year by honoring Mary the Mother of God as she names her son Jesus, a name given Him before He was conceived in the womb. It is through His Passion, Death and Resurrection that we have been reconciled to God. Through that reconciliation God’s Spirit has been poured into our hearts giving us all the boldness to call God by the intimate name Father/Mother, for we are all sons and daughters of God.
Maybe we could begin this New Year with that truth in mind, appreciating our own goodness and acknowledging our own weaknesses and be willing to forget what is behind and strive on to what is ahead and go with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and forgiveness and the faith and courage to step into an unknown future.
On this world day of Peace, the Pope always addresses a letter to the world on pressing world issues. Some people read it, others just cast it aside convinced the Pope has nothing worthwhile to say.
The theme of this year’s letter from Pope Benedict is “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation’ it is a timely theme considering the fiasco we had in Copenhagen.
The Pope reminds us that creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s work. Creation is the primary revelation of God, we know God first of all through God’s creation. Because of our rampant consumerism and our exploitation of Earth’s resources the Pope maintains it is imperative that the human family renew and strengthen that ancient covenant God made with Noah between the human and all living things that share our common home, Earth.
Pope Benedict wants us to see Earth and its riches as God’s gift to all peoples and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poorer nations of the world. Back in 1971 Pope Paul VI pointed out that ‘by our ill considered exploitation of nature we risk destroying it and becoming in turn the victim of this degradation.’ This is the truth expressed in the saying ‘the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth and what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves.’
When Al Gore accepted his Academy Award for his documentary ‘An Inconvient Truth’ his said that the whole issue of the environment was a ‘moral’ issue. Benedict maintains that same truth when he writes, “Our present crises – be they economic , food related, environmental of social are also moral issues and all of them are interrelated.
They call us to rethink the path which we are traveling together. Specifically they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity with the poorer nations of the earth.
As members of the human community of Earth we can begin this New Year – not forgetting what is behind but learning our past mistakes – and face the hard truth, a truth we accept in our heads but not in our hearts – that God has destined the earth and everything it contains for all peoples and nations. The goods of creation belong to humanity as a whole, not to just favored nations such as our own.
We can begin this New Year with what Pope Benedict has called ‘a greater sense of intergenerational solidarity.’ In other words, questioning what kind of a planet are we leaving to our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren? They cannot be saddled with the cost of our use and misuse of the common resources of Earth.
This is all heavy stuff for a New Year’s sermon. Our first reading ended with a beautiful blessing we wish on all here; May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make His countenance to shine upon you and give you peace.
But New Years is a time for resolutions. I put before us a resolution proposed the Holy Father as we try to cultivate peace by protecting creation ‘we will examine our life style and our prevailing models of consumption which are often unsustainable from a social , environmental and even economic point of view, we resolve to work to a real change of outlook which will result in new life styles in which the quest for truth , beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common good will determine how we live of lives upon the earth as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of all others.