For all of us the year will have been full of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments, all of which are the stuff of life. Some of us will have lost loved ones and the memory of those who have gone before us gives the beginning of the new year a certain nostalgia and sadness in spite of what seems like forced merriment and celebration. It is good to recognise this, to take stock, to reflect and give thanks for the good things that have happened and to let go of the bad.
New year is also a time of new beginnings. The making of resolutions shows a desire to live a better life than we have done up to now. It shows a desire to transcend our present limitations and a recognition that we could do better if we but tried. Of course resolutions are easily broken and can lead us to despair about ourselves and our ability to improve. But beginnings can happen at any time. When I was a young nun, a sister in the community often offered the wise advice: from beginnings to beginnings through beginnings for beginnings have no end. Nelson Mandela once said that he was no saint unless a saint was a sinner who kept on trying. Is this not what life is about? A constant trying to live as well as we can, to welcome what comes our way, good or bad, to make sense of it, to make a positive contribution to society and the lives of those around us, to take the human race further in its journey towards wholeness and peace.
New Year is a moment when we and the world seems poised between the past and a future that holds promise and possibility. The world is longing for peace, for justice, for reconciliation, for generosity, for compassion, for equality, for solidarity, for fraternity. Which one of us does not also long for this? Which one of us cannot contribute in some little way to making these values a reality in our own lives? I am often encouraged by the Jewish belief, Tikkun Olam - which means that bit by bit, one step at a time, in small and sometimes seemingly insignificant ways we can contribute to the healing of ourselves,our families and our broken world. All summed up by Seamus Heaney in this quotation sent to me by a friend this Christmas
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme…
…So hope for a great sea-change…
Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here. (From ‘The Cure at Troy’, Seamus Heaney)