Life is an endless series of new beginnings.
We rise every day from our hoped-for good night’s sleep to face a routine so unchanging from morning to morning that sometimes one day’s might be a video of the previous day’s.
Birthdays and anniversaries, Christmases and New Year’s Days – what are they but new beginnings? We look back with both regret and gratitude; we look ahead with a mixture of fear and eager anticipation. Reason and experience tell us that things are likely to be much the same this time around, but unyielding hope insists that they can be and will be different – and off we go!
All year long, day by day, the Church puts before us the example of persons who lived extremely difficult lives, who were threatened at every turn but who never stopped believing that life is essentially good because God, the “Ground of All Being,” is good.
I think it would be appropriate if on this first day of the new year, following, as it does, last Sunday’s feast of the Holy Family, we directed our thoughts and prayers to the preeminence of family life. I know of nothing more important than constant, increasingly patient and unselfish attention to the multiple relationships that make up our families. No matter what else interests us or demands our time and effort, nothing should take priority over what we are to, and what we do for and with, our families.
Most of us, I would imagine, have made some mistakes in this regard, doing what we thought was best at the time – or failing to do what we knew we should do — and learning later that there was a better way, or a right way. There’s no point in pining over that, and it well may be true that we did the best we could at the time or that some pressure or distraction kept us from acting differently and better.
But wiser and more experienced now, what we can do from this moment on is to look at each other differently. We can accept more generously each other’s faults and deficiencies, aware that we bring plenty of our own to every relationship. We can savor and honor and praise the goodness of the other person and just keep silent about what we wish we could change. Out of such an accepting attitude come peace and appreciation and freedom of spirit and gratitude and the desire to please in return and to grow together into deeper, more mature and satisfying love.
Maybe the most important thing we can do to strengthen and improve our relationships is simply to listen — not just hear the sound of a voice, but really listen — to the mind and heart from which it comes, listen to this other person with respectful attention, expecting to hear something worth hearing – and acknowledging that with humility and gratitude.
It had to have been that way with Joseph and Mary and Jesus. Think of the tensions those three persons experienced, how much darkness and mystery they lived in, how much they needed the support and understanding of each other. They respected each other and granted wide berth, believing that ultimately the Divine Spirit within them would bring all things into harmony. That may be the main reason we regard them as models of human behavior.
2019 will be a banner year if a change in us makes someone close to us a happier, freer person. That would be only a joy for all concerned!