I just arrived back from Ireland today and it was a bittersweet experience. Bitter because of the nature of the trip—to preside at the memorial service for my brother Paul so all our family and friends back there could gather and mourn the loss. Sweet because it was good to be back in Ireland surrounded by so much love and memories. My friend, Fr. Liam Lawton, composer and writer of beautiful Irish liturgical music, joined me at the memorial service by singing at the Mass and Bishop PJ McGrath, retired bishop of San Jose, concelebrated as he was on vacation in Ireland with family. It was great to have such loving support at a difficult moment.
As we start a new year, we all look for fresh starts and better times. Who among us is not looking forward to the end of this pandemic and a return to normal, whatever version of reality that will take! Yes, the start of a new year brings with it the opportunity to review the previous year and look to better times. Yet, if I have learned anything from this last year of loss and brokenness, it is that there can be many reasons to be joy-filled. It has been my consistent experience over the years, and especially over this last year, that the “light getting through the cracks” of our brokenness can produce some of the most beautiful moments. Joy in the midst of sadness and loss is a real possibility and in some way it is a deeper joy than the joy that comes during the times that things are going well.
For the year ahead, my prayer for all of us is that we can be attentive enough to see God whenever or wherever God shows up. I do not know whether 2022 will be a better year than 2021 or if it will bring more loss and sadness. But I know that God will be with us no matter what. My prayer for us then is to be ready and open to see God no matter what happens. To be ready to see God in the darkness as much as the light; to see God in the hurt as much as the reconciliation; to see God in the ugliness as much as the beauty of life. To be simply ready to SEE God every day.
I do not believe that we can do that any day without our daily prayer with God, a daily silence before God acknowledging our need for God’s help and grace. Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Jesus and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He had years of preparation and formation to see God in all things. He could not do what he did in public without God’s grace of his consistent and ever-present love for him. He could not do it without the reality of a strong personal prayer life which he demonstrated time and time again. Nor can we.
So let our top goal for new year resolutions be to become a person of daily silent prayer so we can see God in all things. Yes, we pray for a great year in 2022 but even more, we pray to have the eyes to see God and experience his love at all times.
Happy New Year!