At the end of each calendar year, I always try to set aside some time to pause and reflect on the numerous graces and blessings the Lord has given me throughout the past twelve months. Without a doubt, there are many for me to be thankful for. I am very grateful to have had a very smooth transition into our parish, at least as smooth as it can be during a pandemic. Many thanks to all who have welcomed me and shown me your kindness! I am also very blessed that my family is in relatively good health and that, among them, I still have time to spend with three of my four grandparents.
As we look ahead and make some resolutions for the coming year, I certainly fall into the majority of people who know that diet and exercise should take a higher priority! However, I would like to challenge everyone to make at least one spiritual resolution for 2021. It does not have to be overly time-consuming or laborious, but something simply to help us grow in our faith. When COVID restrictions are lifted in the future, are we committed to coming to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation? If we have not been doing this prior to COVID, that would be a great goal. Want to grow in your prayer life? A simple goal could be to set aside a small amount of time each day for personal prayer, or to pray the rosary a few times per week, or to make a visit to one of our churches every now and then to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. If you have been away from sacrament of Reconciliation for a long time, you could set a goal for yourself to make a good confession on a regular basis (every month or two months or whatever you are ready to do) in order to often receive the forgiveness and the healing that are found in it.
Or, a spiritual resolution that would be really easy to fulfill would be to join me as I lead a parish-wide viewing and discussion of “The Search”, a six-video series on FORMED. “The Search” series is very well done and is accessible to anyone watching. It touches on topics that are foundation stones for evangelization. For someone who is fallen away or wandering from the faith, it provides answers to some of their deepest questions. For someone who is already committed to the faith, it provides material for explaining the faith to a secularized world. Every Wednesday for six consecutive weeks, starting January 6, everyone from our parish is invited to join virtually (details found in this bulletin or by calling the parish office) to watch one of the videos and to discuss.
As we celebrate today the feast of the Holy Family, I also encourage the families of our parish in a special way to make a spiritual resolution to do together as a family. Praying together as a family is always a good resolution to make for the new year. In this way, I echo an invitation that Pope Benedict XVI made a few years ago: “The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth.”
As we hear in today’s Gospel reading, the prophet Simeon declared that Jesus would be “a sign that will be contradicted.” Likewise, secular culture of our country often rejects and contradicts the model of the Holy Family. But families that pray together and grow together in faith, even if their journey together as a “domestic church” entails a difficult road with many “bumps” along the way, are without a doubt a much-needed witness to a world that has in many ways forgotten the meaning of the family and the importance of the faith.
Know of my prayers for all of you as we welcome this new year with all of its blessings and all of its challenges. May the year of our Lord 2021 be a grace-filled year for all of us, so that we may always be mindful of the Lord’s blessings. May we, like Mary and St. Joseph, strive always to serve the Lord and please him in all that we do. Let us praise the Lord, and give him thanks!