Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Time is like the flowing river, one year flows out and another flows in. The desk columnist of the Catholic Times  introduces us to the Latin words Januarius and Janus, from which the month January takes its name. Janus, with his two faces pointing in opposite directions, was the Roman God of beginnings and ends, and fittingly names the month of January, which sees the end of the previous year and the beginning of the new year.

Janus was also known as the God of the gate, the gatekeeper of the heavenly gate. The columnist describes the new year as throwing off the old and beginning afresh with new hope and joy. She remembers many words about bringing in the new year but the most memorable were the words of a sermon. The priest mentioned that at the beginning of the new year we should remember the words of Jesus to his disciples: "What I am doing is sending you out like sheep among wolves. You must be clever as snakes and innocent as doves" (Matt.10:16).

The intention of the sermon was to remind us that though we will have joy in the beginning of a new year, we need to remember that during the year we will meet rough and threatening times. There will be challenges, and the words of Jesus will be helpful in navigating through the year. The pack of wolves are ready to fight, armed with relativism, secularism and materialism. We who are Christians have to fight daily against this culture of death, which will require wisdom and simplicity.

The Korean Church has already sent out the warning signals concerning the  dangers we will encounter in society, more so today than in anytime in  the past. There is the glorification of material well-being, and conflict and division are not decreasing. We cry out for mutual understanding and compromise, but are most often met with confrontation and selfish attachment to one's position, and a society that seems unwilling to deal effectively with the rising tide of suicides and divorce, the crisis of family life and the problems with our youth.

Wise as serpents and simple as doves is good advice for us to remember as we go into the new year. Pope Francis has told us in his New Year's message that the keyword for establishing peace is fraternal charity among the world family.  Since we are all brothers and sister under God, fraternal love should be a governing instinct in our lives. However, because of the spread of egotism, secularism and consumerism many are becoming impoverished and alienated. When we begin to see these brothers and sister with fraternal love will we not be closer to world peace?

Pope Francis went on to say, in his message on World Peace Day, some powerful words  to remember as we greet the new year. "Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace...."

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