New Year's Day

01-01-2023Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Since I was a young boy January 1st has had in our Church Tradition many and various Feast Names and Titles, however it appears that the only one which has stayed consistent though time is the secular one: New Year’s Day. I recall when January 1st was the Feast Holy Name of Jesus, the Feast of the Circumcision or the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Pope Paul suggested that the proper Mass to celebrate on this day was the Mass for Peace. All in all it has been considered a Day of Obligation for Catholics despite the various names. I would suspect that sometime we are in search of a title or name for an event and the obvious is just too obvious for us. Why would we make something clear when it can be obscured? I would suggest that it is a wonderful and great truth to gather on the first day of the new calendar year and ask for God’s protection and grace for our loved ones and ourselves. Expressing dependence and connection with our God on the first day of a new year is a wonderful step in our journey of life. It may help to give focus and definition to our coming year that we invoked God’s blessing for us as we stepped into our new year.

The passage from Numbers is quite inspiring. This book of the bible is actually one of the oldest books with material in it dating back many centuries earlier. This scriptural blessing in three parts is the form used in ancient Hebrew because there was no superlative form of adjectives in that language at that time. People would recognize that this triple blessing is a very important; in fact the last part is the most important blessing there is and people would pay special attention to it. Each of the three blessing phrases expresses in its own style the great hope that the Lord God will remain with the people and continue to bring blessings upon them. To “invoke the name” on the people was a way of making real and present through the priestly words the actual being and power of the Lord God in these words of blessing. The final part of this blessing is a prayer that everyone would enjoy all of the good things that accompany a world at peace. We need to recognize the word we often hear in society today had a powerful meaning back then, as now. “Shalom” meant all the possible blessings one could have in one’s life.

So being at Mass this weekend and hearing the first reading, we realize how graced and fortunate we are to be able to ask God’s blessings upon our loved ones and ourselves. At Mass this weekend let us pray with devotion that our God will hear our hearts and during this coming year give to us and all our loved ones His grace, Hope, Light and Strength.

A Blessed and Happy New Year to you and all those you hold close in your heart.

Father Brian