A Year of Grace

January 1, 2023; Luke 2:16-21; Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

On New Year’s Day it is customary to make resolutions for how we will act in the upcoming year. But what resolutions should we make? Perhaps the American humorist, Erma Bombeck, can help us. Here are her four resolutions for New Year’s Day. First, I am going to clean up this dump as soon as the kids grow up. Second, I will not go to any doctor whose office plants have died. Third, I will not lend my car to anyone I gave birth to. And fourth, I am going to apply for a hardship scholarship from Weight Watchers. We could go on in this vein and doing so only confirms the truth that New Year’s is the day we all pretend we are not going to make the same mistakes that we made last year. The whole process is, in fact, discouraging.

But I would like you to consider this. I would suggest to you that our focus on this New Year’s Day should not be on our resolutions but on God’s grace. We should not be struggling over what we are going to do but instead open ourselves to what God is going to do in 2023. And God will certainly do something, because it is God’s nature to initiate good things in our lives.

Just look at the shepherds in today’s gospel. They stand proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ birth. But where did they get that good news? They were not looking for it. They were not searching for it in the way the Magi were as they followed the star. The shepherds were simply doing their job, watching their flocks by night, and an angel appeared and announced that Jesus was born. They did not initiate the good news. God did. They did not find the gospel. It found them.

We should expect the same thing to happen to us as we work our job and live our family life this new year. God will initiate us new opportunities for us. God will offer us new ways to live. There might be a family problem that you have faced for some time: addiction, depression, a lack of communication. But this new year could be the time when God allows you to face that problem in a new way and resolve it. You may have for years carried a hurt that limited your freedom and joy. But 2023 might be the year when God softens your heart and puts you on the pathway to forgiveness. You might be living with a certain emptiness, an incompleteness, knowing that there must be more in your life. But the new year could give you new opportunities to give, to teach a poor child how to read, to help settle an immigrant family in our city. Engaged in such service, you may find a purpose and a joy that your life presently lacks.

We believe in a God who initiates good things in our lives. So if we are going to make any resolution today, it should be a resolution to keep listening and watching, to keep open to God’s invitation. So that when God calls, we can answer. So when God opens a door, we can find the courage to walk through it. If we live in this way, then a year from now on New Year’s Day 2024, we can look back on this year and say, “Look at the amazing things God was able to accomplish through me.”

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