The blessings of a new year, and a new start: Sunday reflection – HotAir #politics #news #headlines #latestnews #breakingnews


This morning’s Gospel reading is Luke 2:16–21:

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Once again, a happy and blessed New Year to all of our readers! We are looking forward to another year with our members and friends, and wish you all peace and prosperity possible.

Today’s obviously a holiday, with plenty to keep us occupied. In the secular sense, New Year’s Day is all about new beginnings, even if it’s a bit artificial. We don’t assume that time itself started on a January 1 in antiquity, after all. Celebrating it on this particular day only began in 45 BC with the adoption of the Julian calendar, and that was only in the Western world. That practice didn’t remain in vogue after the fall of the empire, in part because the Julian calendar was inaccurate. Before the 18th century, New Years Day celebrations moved around between Christmas Day and Easter, with the March equinox occasionally being adopted instead.

All of these calendar dates have one concept in common, however: renewal. Whether the new year gets celebrated on Christmas Day or the first day of spring, it still has that sense of a fresh start. We are offered a new stanza, a new opportunity to get things right. It is that sense of the celebration that has led to the tradition of New Year’s resolutions — a launching point for repentance, renewal, and a new determination to do good and right by ourselves and others.

That same sense most properly belongs to Christmas and Easter, too. The shepherds come in amazement to the manger to see the Christ child proclaimed by the angel because they desperately want to be renewed in the Lord. As Paul writes to the Galatians in our second reading today (Gal 4:4-7), Christ’s arrival and our embrace of His salvation has renewed our true identity as children of God rather than slaves to sin and decay.

The Lord instructed Moses to let the Israelites hear of this sense of adoption in our first reading from Numbers 6:22-27:

“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Our New Year celebrations offer us a formal sense of this renewal. Most of the time, we look at that in a secular sense, but we should allow this to remind us that we can have that sense of renewal every day of our lives. Christ always welcomes us to repent and renew our covenant with the Lord at all times. Even when we stumble, we can choose to make any calendar date our New Year’s Day by reflecting on the glory of Christ and His sacrifice to pay for our sins.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Have a wonderful day, and welcome to 2023.

The front page image is a detail from “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Jacob Jordaens, c. 1653. Currently on display at the Städel Museum. Via Wikimedia Commons. 

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  

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