Happy New Year! I pray that this new year will bring many blessings and opportunities for you and your loved ones to grow and flourish. While there is little religious significance attached to the New Year, somehow it offers itself to us as a turning point, it provides an opportunity to look back and forward at the same time. We could do that with a sense of destiny or self-determination but as followers of Jesus we are invited to place our hands in His and look back with gratitude for the blessings we have received and with sorrow at our mistakes and learn from them. One of my favourite MMA fighters, Connor McGregor, says ‘We either win or we learn’. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow and when we offer them to God they can be very powerful moments of growth. When we look forward to the new year we can tell God our plans but that would be stupid, as a Christian when we look forward we do so with an open heart and a sense of freedom – ‘Lord I offer you this new year and I ask that your plans are fulfilled in me’. New Year is a chance to give God permission to work in our lives. That might leave us feeling uncomfortable but it will be far more fruitful in the long run than chasing our own plans. Being a Christian can sometimes feel like being a little raft in a big ocean, we are not in control and that can feel hard but we know we are always safe and are part of God’s bigger picture.
For much of this last year I have felt like a little raft in a vast ocean and not simply in the Christian sense. The Pandemic with its restrictions and lockdown and fast changing rules have often left me feeling disoriented and discombobulated and while I have great hopes for this coming year I am going to take things as they come. I have not enjoyed the privations that have been forced upon us and when the release valve was pulled on Christmas Day I had a taste of what life used to be like, how travelling fifty or so miles to see family used to be a ‘normal’ taken for granted activity. It reminded me of what this new year might bring – more freedom and new possibilities. My Christmas Day reprieve helped me realise how much I need a change of scene to keep life fresh. Yet at the same time lockdown has helped me understand a bit more what is important in life and let go of some dead wood. I am sure to some lesser or greater extent this has been all our experiences, if the colossal noise of our neighbourhood New Year’s fireworks were anything to go by I would say people are feeling either very frustrated at their situation or very hopeful for the year to come!
As a parish we have done amazingly this year. The way we have responded to the situation has blown me away. Christmas was a highlight and seeing so many people work so hard in our community was truly humbling. During the last year, being closed for so long to was devastating to me; I know many people ‘pop’ into our Church on a daily basis and our Lord not getting his ‘visitors’ was so sad. Of course, those people missed their ‘moments’ with the Lord too. For Mass not to take place publicly was deeply sad and for us all not to be able to meet face to face has been very hard. But despite all this we have a really strong community who want to be together even if for the moment it is in Mass with face masks on or on Zoom and Instagram Live. So many of you have rallied in the most impressive way which has given me great hope for the year ahead. Not to mention those of you who are raring to get back once you feel safe to do so. ‘If’ the vaccination programme goes according to plan and if the vaccines are as effective as hoped I believe we can have an amazing year ahead, even if there is a little more pain to endure first. My biggest dream is that we can meet face to face and continue to grow as a community. In ‘normal’ times many people don’t see much of a need for God in their lives, He can be seen as a nice optional extra. But in these times, His light shines much brighter and we are called to bear that light to His world. I hope and believe that this new year will give us the chance to do that like never before! Happy New Year.