These early days of January are naturally a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead. Despite the cock-step increase in the daylight in the morning and evening, it is still a dark month. The grim news of the tightening of the grip of the Corona Virus, the Mother and Baby Home report and other serious issues add to that sense of darkness.
Perspective is important and depending on your outlook, you may see the proverbial glass as being half full or the contrary. There is a story of an elderly man who went to the doctor with several complaints. “Doc” he said – “I am so stricken. I have chest pains, headaches, back pains, nausea, arthritis, constipation, stomach cramps, earaches, burning in the eyes and congested lungs”. “Sir” said the doctor, “you are telling me you have all these things. What don’t you have?” “Teeth”, the man answered! I hope today that your perception of reality now from the depths of January blues is not as downbeat as our friend in the story!
For many years while teaching in the diocesan college in the diocese where I was ordained, I ministered during the Summer in Orange diocese in California. I became very friendly with an Italian/American couple called Chuck and Mary. Mary is still going strong and is nearly one hundred. Chuck returned to God in recent years, in his late eighties. Chuck’s outlook on life was that of an adventurous teenager. I always loved visiting the couple and invariably felt the world was a better place having spent time in their presence.
One of Chuck’s favourite reflections was called Life is an Opportunity. It hangs on the wall in his log cabin in Yosemite. I jotted it down and often reflect on it. It runs; Life is opportunity – avail of it. Beauty – admire it. Bliss – taste it. Dream – realise it. Challenge – meet it. Duty – complete it. Game – play it. Costly – take care of it. Wealth – keep it. Love – enjoy it. Mystery – know it. Promise – fulfil it. Song – sing it. Struggle – accept it. Sorrow – overcome it. Tragedy – embrace it. Adventure – risk it. Luck – make it. Life – defend it.
For this delightful couple, despite their advanced years and declining health, every second was extremely worth-while, despite the challenges that came with it.
Life is indeed all of these great things in Chuck’s favourite reflection. The gift of this new year, 2021 is such an opportunity to make the most of, despite whatever predicament we might be in. And thank God for the gift of this year ahead. Perspective is so important for positive mental health. According to Albert Einstein we “learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow”. Every day, every new year is an occasion for hope, for new life, for loving God and our fellow human beings.
The Audacity of Hope is the title of one of the books I got as a present some years ago. It was the story, the vision the ideals of a man who was to become the most powerful person in the world in 2009, the then president of the United States, Barak Obama. The audacity to hope. May 2021 be one in which you have the audacity to hope in the gift of time and life that God continues to bless you with.
As we look ahead the Blessings of the New Year give a smaller taster of what to expect and the hope and knowledge that God accompanies us every step of the way. 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, flowers and Summer – Be with us Lord. In June – the month of exams, the mid-Summer sun – Be with us Lord. In July – the month of holidays, the dry grass and Summers end – Be with us Lord. In August – the month of harvest, wheat and corn – Be with us Lord. In September – the month of fruits, school 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 Holy Souls and the Saints – Be with us Lord. In December – the month of the gift of light and our saviour – Be with us Lord. Amen.
Fintan Monahan is Bishop of Killaloe – Clare Champion article for Friday, 15th of January, 2021