Next Sunday morning at 8.48 the sun will rise for the first time on 2023. There will be a combination of relief, thanksgiving and hope in our hearts as we bid farewell to 2022 and welcome the new year. There is a lovely phrase from St Augustine which resonates with this time of year. He invited us to ‘Entrust the past to God’s mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence’.
We entrust the past to God’s mercy. We are so very grateful that the pandemic and attendant worry, tension, and suffering caused by COVID-19 finally receded during 2022. We commend each person whose death was hastened by the virus to the love and mercy of God. We thank the Lord for the goodness in people’s hearts which the public health emergency brought to the fore. So many people did so much to help. This ranged from medical staff risking their own health to care for the ill, teachers reaching out to their students, workers in shops, post office staff, guards, bus drivers and so many more besides. These last years weren’t just a time of pandemic, they were the era of the volunteer, the neighbour and of community.
The saddest thing of all in 2022 was the return of war to our continent, to Europe. So much suffering, death and destruction inflicted on families across Ukraine by people who had allowed their hearts to turn to stone. The scourge of war and famine also continued to torture people elsewhere in our world. Side by side with the pain, there was also Christian love as people welcomed refugees into their communities and continued to help the poor through Trócaire and in so many other ways.
There were the personal joys and sorrows in 2022 that each year brings. Families in every community lost dear ones and experienced the pain of an empty place at table on Christmas Day. We pray that the faithful departed are with the Lord and that those who mourn may be consoled by God’s grace. Suffering in the form of ill health, domestic violence, homelessness and so much else continues to be part of people’s lives.
Thank God, there were also a great many happy days during the last twelve months. Families welcomed new life into the world, children received Holy Communion for the first time, or the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation. Others thank the Lord for having passed examinations, found employment or perhaps met somebody with whom to share their future. Sport, music, film, theatre and art continued to bring joy. People confronted their own personal challenges often away from the public gaze, be it depression, addiction or family difficulties.
All of us did the best we could. Day in day out, we did the ordinary things that fill our days and build up families, communities, our country and world. People across our pastoral areas continued to offer their time and talents as they sustained faith communities. People served on committees and councils, cleaned churches, acted as stewards, helped with live streaming, sacred music, safeguarding, play and pray, led prayer and so much else. People also volunteered through sports clubs, retirement groups, men’s sheds, women’s groups and in so many other ways. Sometimes, a simple gesture of friendship or concern making God’s love visible made all the difference. Our love for the generations to come found powerful expression in a renewed reverence for creation.
We entrust the future to God’s providence. We pray that 2023 may be kind to us. Perhaps this prayer from the Family Prayer Book published by Veritas helps us invited the new light of 2023 into our hearts and lives:
- In January, the month of darkness and frost – Be with us, Lord
- In February, the month of rain, wind and snow – Be with us, Lord
- In March, the month of farmers, lambs and new life – Be with us, Lord
- In April, the month of swallows, growth and green grass – Be with us, Lord
- In May, the month of the cuckoo, the flowers and summer – Be with us, Lord
- In June, the month of examinations, the mid-summer and sun – Be with us, Lord.
- In July, the month of holidays, the dry grass and summer’s end – Be with us, Lord
- In August, the month of harvest, wheat and corn – Be with us, Lord
- In September, the month of fruits, schools and St Michael – Be with us, Lord
- In October, the month of falling leaves, nuts and Halloween – Be with us, Lord
- In November, the month of the dead, the souls and the saints – Be with us, Lord
- In December, the month of the gift, the light and Our Saviour – Be with us, Lord.
Fr. Albert McDonnell
Radharc na nOileán Pastoral Area.