When I was a lot younger, New Year’s Day was celebrated with optimism and genuine hope deep in our hearts for the year ahead. I sense that it is not so much so these days. We all face seemingly bigger challenges in life each year and the happiness we seek for self is akin to a dog chasing its tail. A child entering school for the first time is cautiously celebrated because not far beyond looms the anxiety for results.
Anxiety and fear have now become shadows to hope, happiness conditional to end results.
We seem to have lost the innocence of life – the trust to allow life to grow us each year and to simply appreciate who we are and what we have. It is because such optimism comes from deep within us. Now, we live in ‘google-time’ when we can be too well-informed, educated to analyse and process, where our every thought and possibility must fall within the realm of logic. We have lost the awe and wonder even when life does sometimes surprise us.
Today we celebrate this innocence of Mary, a trust in the wonders of God that led her to become Mary, mother of Jesus, Mother of God. There was a lot happening in her life, as there are happening in ours today, but she chose to “treasure all these things and pondered them in her heart” (today’s readings). For her, these things did not fall within the realm of logic and as a believer, it must then come from God.
Today by tradition is a day we reflect on and give thanks for 2016 and make resolutions as we prepare to live 2017. Our conscious mind processes all that has happened in our life thus far and reason out a detailed plan to accomplish more in the year ahead. Reason and logic dominate our thought process sometimes blinding us to the silent working and movement of the hand of God in our life.
Pondering these things in our hearts allow us to be aware of the presence of the hand of God in our lives. When we ponder, we go beyond the frontal lobe of our brain, beyond the realm of logic to open the door to trust and genuine hope that the Spirit of God will lead us into the new year knowing what is good for us, keeping us on the path of true happiness and joy in life.
Pondering moves us from the conscious mind deep into our subconscious heart where logic no longer dictates but where the Spirit of God speak to us and urge us to act. Often these urges to act is described as ‘impulses’, and they come with a firm conviction, a sureness that it is right. It is in pondering in our hearts where we find the deep-seated optimism for life and reawaken the awe and wonder we can have for the hand of God active in our personal life.
It happened to me just this week on a visit to California when ‘impulse’ woke me up and urged that I go for mass on a cold winter morning at the church nearby. When I heard the pastor, I had no doubts that the Spirit wanted me there. The pastor gave me the wisdom of what I wrote today, itself a sign of God’s hand as I was pondering what to write this week.
At the end of mass, I knelt in silence in the church. My mind began going through a rather short list of items of thanksgiving for 2016 but proceeded into a rather long list of desires and petitions of 2017. ‘Impulse’ stopped me. ‘Something’ told me just to ponder in my heart. Soon enough thoughts drained away, and in its place was a voice and a conviction that “I Am” present in your life. This presence overwhelmed me and tears washed away anxieties and fears, and hope glistened again. I am ready for 2017.
The pastor shared that we need to place ourselves in environments to lead the head to the heart. He gave the example of a visit to a doctor where we know that ‘something’ will happen to us in relation to our health issues and we become expectant of it. In this new year, we will do well to place ourselves in the hand of God and expect that ‘something’ will happen as it did me when I visited that church this week.
Let us resolve to give space to the presence of God in our life in this new year so that we can ponder and wonder at the movement of the hand of God in us. “May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.”
(Thanks to Fr. Jack Gibson, pastor of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Albany, California for sharing your wisdom with me. Thank you too for this experience of God through your hospitality and welcoming spirit. My thanks to Alan, Jenny, Bob, Lativia (?) and the lady whose name I missed)
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God