This is the first day of the New Year, the Year of Our Lord 2014. All time belongs to Him, as we mark the years from His First Coming and count down the years to His Second Coming. The Day’s Gospel recalls the infant Christ’s circumcision and naming, traditionally done the eighth day following his birth. The Son of God lived in this world, got himself circumcised and took a name (not an uncommon name—“Jesus” is a form of Joshua).
Jesus lived in the world but not of the world. We too should enjoy all the good things God provides in this world—New Years Day hikes, good music, sparkling friendships, robust wines and hearty foods, etc. But we had best not live “of” the world—I mean, we shouldn’t depend on the world. Its happiness is short-lived and thinly-surfaced, always disappointing before long.
In the Epistle for the January 1 Mass, St. Paul writes: “A Savior has appeared to us and taught us to reject saeculária desidéria (worldly desires) so that we might live in hoc saeculo in sobriety, justice, and devotion.” He uses the word saeculum (“this world”) twice, but in opposition. We are to reject this world even as we make our home in this world. Sobriety, justice, and devotion are the key: if we can live temperately, prudently, in this world, we can be happy.
On New Year’s Eve I took one of our foreign students to dinner at a friend’s home, and then to Target on the way back. He wanted to get a phone card to call his family in Nigeria, where it was already 2014. When we arrived at the Mall, I was stupefied to see that Target’s big red target was dark, and the mighty parking lot was empty. Every store but one was closed, and that one store was doing a brisk business in the final hours of 2013. The store was Bevmo. From its name, I assume this store promotes “more drinking,” and my neighbors were enthusiastically responding to Bev Mo’s call.
I wonder who first thought of beginning the New Year drunk? Is life so unbearable that we can’t face a New Year without drugs? Maybe no one was getting drunk—I had two glasses of beer at the dinner party myself, but with muchos enchiladas y tacos. I suspect, though, that many had more than two beers, since I did notice an extraordinary number of police on the roads that night.
This New Year will bring us tragedy, heartbreak, and violence, along with joy and peace. If we face these days ahead with Jesus Christ, we won’t need to self-medicate. Let’s live this New Year to our full capacity, in the saeculum but not of the saeculum. Notice that Catholics begin every New Year with Our Lady, a mother who shares every joy and sorrow with her children. Even should we have to climb a Calvary sometime in 2014, she will go with us, as she went with John, who dared not face the Crucifixion without her. 2014 is a Year of Grace, if we stay with Jesus and Mary, with nothing to fear and everything to hope for.