– Fr Leonard E. Dollentas
Before the onset of the year 2000, I was in the senior year of my formation to the ordained ministry and preparing for ordination.
At the time, many people were concerned about the arrival of “Y2K.” Would the transition in dates in computers cause havoc on its data and systems? Would there be some unexpected change we could not foresee?
At midnight of January 1, 2000 everyone was so anxious about what exactly would happen to the data and files stored in the computers.
I recall how the New Year 2000 began with the usual war zone sound of the firecrackers (the Filipino way of welcoming the new year) with deafening cheers and music. But, there was no earth-shattering change, no huge technical glitch that shut off the bank’s ATMs, computerized register machines, traffic lights or destroyed all the backed-up files and data in the computers.
Looking back, it was almost amusing how much anxiety had beleaguered us, but no one really knew what would happen. Consequently, since this technical concern has nothing to do with our ordination, we were ordained priests on September 2000 – and we were called the “Millennium priests.”
The seemingly limitless possibilities of a new year can be exciting. The unknowns can be overwhelming, as it is frightening. The year 2020 might bring a new job, a new promotion, a new boss, a new friendship, a new diet, or a new lifestyle. It might also bring the loss of a loved one, a stress laden broken relationship, an illness, a misfortune, an emotional heartache or other challenges. We can’t know what lies ahead. As much as we might not like uncertainty, there’s also a gift in not knowing what the future holds.
A TIME TO REFLECT ON WHAT HAS BEEN
Welcoming the new year leads us to a sense of owing to God on what has been, it also invites us to make an account reflectively of all that we (and God) have been up to. As we slowly have spent the time of that past year, there is always an opportunity of grace if we can intentionally take the time to sit with God and see where the year has taken us. What were the blessings we received? Did we grow with our relationship with God? Where has God been evident in our lives? What can we give up to hasten an authentic relationship with God and with others? What are the gifts or what are the graces we need most at this time in our life?
As in any relationship, our own relationship with God progresses from renewal and reflection from time to time. Year’s end and the beginning of a new year lend themselves to such practices, as, collectively, we set goals and make resolutions to begin again.
GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR THE NEW YEAR
The gathering of the faithful of the Diocese of Macau at Penha hill on the eve of the new year 2020 was an awe-filled experience for everyone who joined. On that night, many gave up commercially prepared programs and hiked up the famous monastery hill to welcome the new year. Standing on the threshold of the new year, it is more meaningful when we gather in prayer, to ask God for gifts and graces to handle what we don’t yet know. The mystery of the incarnation offered us a glimpse to see the spiritual meaning of hoping in God on what will be.
God has become man, and in that mystery what has been is joined forever in hope and prayer with what will be. God entered into our time, and his very presence sanctified it, making it holy and an avenue for us to find him in time and become holy ourselves, like him. The God who is beyond all time, came to live among us so that our human restraints might not bind us.
Celebrating that mystery urges us to manifest our faith as pilgrim people of God. We trust that God will be with us wherever we go, just as God has been with us everywhere that we’ve been. Thus as the year ends, we pause to be with God before rushing on to the new year and to what will be.
THE BLESSINGS OF TIME
As a small boy in the Philippines, I grew up witnessing the blessing of time and days. In our parish, at that time, there is a special tradition of blessing time. With calendars and watches in tow, everyone gathers in front of the altar on new year’s day and the priest offers prayers and blessings on the items we use to keep time. But more recently, what has begun many years ago as an assembly of paper calendars and analog watches is now joined by cell phones and smartwatches and datebooks. Though the new items for reckoning time and schedule may look different the blessing has the same intention — to consecrate the minutes and months of the new year to God.
THE 2020 DAYS AND MONTHS AHEAD
We do not know what this new year 2020 encompasses, we can only guess at some of what might lie ahead. Still, we say yes to the knowns and unknowns, trusting that whatever happens in the days and months ahead, we will be able to handle with the grace, the support and the love of God, who knows the future and walks this journey with us. True, the whirl of events, local and global (demonstrations and fights for democracies, impeachment, and nationalism; terrorism and war and natural calamities) may lead us to fear.
St Paul assured us: “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph. 6:10-18).
Maybe 2020 will be a year that requires tremendous courage. Maybe it will be like the onset of 2000 and breeze in without a single glitch. Maybe it will be a year that requires simple acts of love. Whatever it may bring, living deeply and fully seems like a perfect approach.
St Josemaria Escriva has these encouraging words for us:
“I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives.” (Passionately Loving the World, a homily given by St Josemaria on 8 October 1967 at a Mass on the campus of the University of Navarre, Spain).
At the beginning of a new year, may we find peace, comfort, and joy knowing that God is always present in all our situations and concerns. He who holds the future will love and accompany us through whatever 2020 holds.