The late Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, once famously wrote in a journal, a type of prayer: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that is to come, yes.”
Important words for us to consider as we mark the end of this calendar year and begin another.
Even if it has been a difficult past year, is there something for which we can give thanks either from the past year or looking forward to the new one? As we look back over the past year or look to the future, are we filled with a sense of the sacred, a sense of God’s grace at work in our lives – a “yes” to God that we can utter in our prayer?
As we continue the celebration of Christmas, we are reminded of the importance of clear knowledge, awe and wonder. The first reading from the first letter of John warns of “many antichrists” who have appeared – a term which has too often been misunderstood in a fundamentalistic way as applying to some future demagogue. Rather, the author of the letter is referring to anyone who distorts the teaching of the Gospel and tries to claim that they alone have the true and correct understanding of God’s will. Instead, John says, all of the believers have knowledge of the truth, and all can apply that knowledge together to discern what is right. It is John reminding the community of believers that they have already experienced the wonder of the truth, and have simply to live it out concretely.
In the Catholic Church, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council refers to the sensus fidelium or sense of the faithful, the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the entire community of the Church so that we cannot err in the deepest matters of our faith. That teaching is based, in part, on the divine truth found in the first reading.
The synod process which Pope Francis has called the Church to, and which will continue through 2024, is one expression of that common sense of the faithful at work – as Catholics across the world share their insights on how to address crucial needs in our Church at this time. This experience has been a source of great wonder, awe and inspiration for many! So, let us continue to give thanks for the successes of the synod in our own country and around the world, and continue to say “yes” to the invitation of the Holy Father to participate.
One of the natural responses to an experience of awe is praise and thanksgiving. We see both expressed in today’s joyful psalm and in the beautiful beginning of the Gospel of John, speaking of the eternal Word of God which became flesh, so that we become like God. These words of the Gospel are meant to be read and proclaimed slowly, contemplatively, letting the wonder of God’s love in the incarnation of Christ fill our minds and hearts. That is the purpose of the extended celebration of Christmas which continues into the new year – to allow that mystery to fill us and remind us that, like Dag Hammarskjöld noted, we have much to give thanks for, and much to continue to say “yes” to!
Whether this has been a joyful, painful, hopeful, or challenging year for you, I pray you will be able to experience God’s grace of a sacred knowledge, wonder, awe and peace in your minds and hearts as the year turns.
Happy New Year!